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THE   "CHARACTERS" 


JEAN   DE   LA   BRUYERE 


PUBLISHER'S  NOTE. 

Three  hundred  copies  of  this  book  printed  for  England,  and 
two  hundred,  with  an  Atnerican  imprint,  for  sale  in  that  country. 
No  more  will  be  printed. 

No....).y> 


JEAN     DE     LA     BRUYERE 


LA   BRUYMRE 


THE    "CHARACTERS" 

OF 

JEAN    DE   LA    BRUYERE 

NEWLY  RENDERED  INTO  ENGLISH 
By  HENRI  VAN  LAUN 


OTttb  an  3Introiiuction,  a  TBiogtaplfilcal  Spemoir 
anD  Mottfi 


ILLUSTRATED  WITH  TWENTY-FOUR  ETCHINGS 
By  B.  DAMMAN  and   V.   FOULQUIER 


LONDON 
JOHN    C.    NIMMO 

14.   KING  WILLIAM  STREET.   STRAND,  W.C. 
1885 


J(A' 


College 
Library 


CONTENTS. 


c^tr. 


PAGE 

INTRODUCTION ji 

BIOGRAPHICAL   MEMOIR 26 

PREFACE    i 

OF  WORKS   OF   THE   MIND 7 

OF  PERSONAL   MERIT 39 

OF  WOMEN 58 

OF  THE  AFFECTIONS 86 

OF  SOCIETY  AND   OF  CONVERSATION        ....  lOO 

OF  THE  GIFTS  OF   FORTUNE I32 

OF  THE  TOWN 164 

OF  THE  COURT 183 

OF  THE  GREAT 221 

OF  THE  SOVEREIGN   AND  THE   STATE       ....  245 

OF   MANKIND 27I 

OF  OPINIONS 328 

OF  FASHION 377 

OF  CERTAIN   CUSTOMS 4O3 

OF  THE  PULPIT 442 

OF  FREETHINKERS 459 


LIST   OF    EMBELLISHMENTS. 


Btcblngs— iportralts, 

PAGE 

JEAN  DE  LA  BRUY^RE Frontispiece 

MONTAIGNE 23 

DESCARTES 15I 

LE   BRUN 236 

LOUIS    XIV 270 

WILLIAM    III 374 

BOSSUET 453 

Btcbings— IDignettes. 

PACK 

THE   AUTHOR i 

STUDY 7 

TIRED   OUT 39 

THE  TOILETTE 58 

AFFECTION 86 

■SOCIETY 100 

RUSTIC   COURTSHIP I32 

THE  TUILERIES 164 

THE   COURT 183 

THE   GREAT 221 


lO  LIST   OF   EMBELLISHMENTS. 

PAGE 

THE   PRICE   OF   GLORY 245 

THE   CONSULTATION 27I 

DIFFERENT   OPINIONS 328 

THE  BIRD-FANCIER 377 

NOBLE  AND  CITIZEN 403 

MONK   PREACHING 442 

BELIEF 459 


INTRODUCTION. 

j(T  is  a  common  practice  for  translators  to 
state  to  the  public  that  the  author  they 
are  going  to  introduce,  and  whom  they 
sometimes  traduce,  is  one  of  the  greatest 
men  of  the  age,  and  that  already  for  a  long  time  a 
general  desire  has  been  felt  to  make  the  acquaintance  of 
such  a  master-mind.  It  would  be  an  insult  to  French 
scholars  to  speak  thus  of  La  Bruy^re,  for  the  merits 
of  his  "  Characters  "  are  known  ;  but,  for  the  benefit  of 
those  who  are  not  so  well  acquainted  with  our  author, 
I  may  state  that  he  is  neither  so  terse,  epigrammatic, 
sublime,  nor  profound  as  either  Pascal  or  La  Roche- 
foucauld are,  but  that  he  is  infinitely  more  readable, 
as  he  is  always  trying  to  please  his  readers,  and  now 
and  then  sacrifices  even  a  certain  depth  of  thought  to 
attain  his  object. 

La  Bruy^re  takes  good  care  to  tell  us  that  he  has  not 
imitated  any  one ;  Pascal  "  makes  metaphysics  sub- 
servient to  religion,  explains  the  nature  of  the  soul,  its 
passions  and  vices ;  treats  of  the  great  and  serious 
motives  which  lead  to  virtue,  and  endeavours  to  make 
a  man  a  Christian;"    La  Rochefoucauld's   "mind,  in- 


12  INTRODUCTION. 

structed  by  his  knowledge  of  society,  and  with  a  delicacy 
equal  to  his  penetration,  observed  that  self-love  in  man 
was  the  cause  of  all  his  errors,  and  attacked  it  without 
intermission,  wherever  it  was  found  ;  and  this  one 
thought,  multiplied  as  it  were  in  a  thousand  different 
ways  by  a  choice  of  words  and  a  variety  of  expression, 
has  always  the  charm  of  novelty."  ^  Our  author,  on 
the  contrary,  openly  declares  :  "I  did  not  wish  to  write 
any  maxims,  for  they  are  like  moral  laws,  and  I  acknow- 
ledge that  I  possess  neither  sufficient  authority  nor 
genius  for  a  legislator."  ^ 

What  is  the  plan  and  idea  of  the  book  of  "  Char- 
acters ?  "  Let  La  Bruy^re  himself  answer  this  :  "  Of 
the  sixteen  chapters  which  compose  it,  there  are  fifteen 
wholly  employed  in  detecting  the  fallacy  and  ridicule 
to  be  found  in  the  objects  of  human  passions  and  incli- 
nations, and  in  demolishing  such  obstacles  as  at  first 
weaken,  and  afterwards  extinguish,  any  knowledge  of 
God  in  mankind ;  therefore,  these  chapters  are  merely 
preparatory  to  the  sixteenth  and  last,  wherein  atheism 
is  attacked,  and  perhaps  routed,  wherein  the  proofs  of  a 
God,  such  at  least  as  weak  man  is  capable  of  receiving, 
are  produced  ;  wherein  the  providence  of  God  is  de- 
fended against  the  insults  and  complaints  of  free- 
thinkers." 3 

La  Bruy^re    is    not   a  speculative    moralist,   but   an 

1  Pascal's  Pensies  were  published  in  1670,  six  years  after  their  author's 
death  ;  La  Rochefoucauld's  Maximes  appeared  in  1665,  and  of  both  works 
from  five  to  six  editions  had  been  sold  before  the  "  Characters"  saw  the 
light.  I  have  borrowed  the  definition  of  these  authors'  labours  from  La 
Bruyere's  "  Prefatory  Discourse  concerning  Theophrastus,"  which  came 
out  at  the  same  time  as  the  "  Characters,"  and  served  as  an  introduction. 

-  Preface  to  La  Bruyere's  "  Characters,"  page  v. 

3  Preface  to  La  Bruyfere's  "  Speech  upon  his  Admission  as  a  Member  of  the 


INTRODUCTION.  I  J 

observer  of  the  manners  of  men,  or,  as  he  likes  to  call 
himself,  a  philosopher,  and  above  all  a  Christian  philo- 
sopher, such  as  a  friend  of  Bossuet  ought  to  be.  He 
was  the  first  to  make  morality  attractive,  and  to  paint 
characters  in  a  literary  and  delicate  manner ;  he  does 
not  dogmatise,  and  above  all  shows  neither  personal 
hatred  nor  venom  ;  in  other  words,  to  use  his  own  expres- 
sions, he  "  gives  back  to  the  public  what  it  lent "  ^  him. 

Underneath  the  literary  man  people  often  look  for  the 
man,  with  all  his  passion,  his  likes  and  dislikes  ;  hence 
the  many  "  Keys "  of  the  "  Characters,"  published 
during  the  author's  lifetime  and  after  his  death,  in  which 
all  kinds  of  allusions  were  attempted,  and  all  sorts  of 
hypothetical  explanations  ventured  on. 

Of  the  concocters  of  the  "  Keys  "  La  Bruy^re  speaks 
as  follows  : 

**  They  make  it  their  business,  if  possible,  to  discover 
to  which  of  their  friends  or  enemies  these  portraits  can 
apply ;  they  neglect  everything  that  seems  like  a  sound 
remark  or  a  serious  reflection,  though  almost  the  whole 
book  consists  of  them ;  they  dwell  upon  nothing  but 
the  portraits  or  characters,  and  after  having  explained 
them  in  their  own  way,  and  after  they  imagine  they  have 
found  out  the  originals,  they  publish  to  the  world  long 
lists,  or,  as  they  call  them,  '  Keys,'  but  which  are  indeed 
'  false  keys,'  and  as  useless  to  them  as  they  are  injuri- 
ous to  the  persons  whose  names  are  deciphered,  and  to  the 
writer  who  is  the  cause  of  it,  though  an  involuntary  one."  ^ 

French  Academy,  June  15,  1693,"  which  preface  was  published  for  the  first 
time  with  the  eighth  edition  of  the  "  Characters,"  in  1694. 

1  Preface  to  La  Bruyere's  "  Chiracters,"'  page  i. 

2  Preface  to  La  Bruyere's  "  Speech  upon  his  Admission  as  a  Member  of 
the  French  Academy,  June  15,  1693." 


14  INTRODUCTION. 

And  yet  some  of  these  "  Keys  "  have  been  of  great 
use  to  modern  commentators,  and  served  to  elucidate 
several  traits  in  the  "  Characters  "  which  otherwise  would 
not  have  been  discovered. 

It  would  be  ridiculous  to  deny  that  La  Bruyere  never 
had  any  particular  personage  in  view  in  delineating  a 
certain  character,  but,  as  he  himself  says  :  "  If  I  might 
be  allowed  to  be  a  little  vain,  I  should  be  apt  to  believe 
that  my  "  Characters  "  have  pretty  well  portrayed  men  in 
general,  since  they  resemble  so  many  in  particular  ;  and 
since  every  one  thinks  he  finds  there  his  neighbour  or 
his  countryman,  I  did  indeed  paint  after  the  life,  but 
did  not  always  mean  to  paint,  in  my  book  of  "  Char- 
acters," one  individual  or  another.  I  did  not  hire  myself 
out  to  the  public  to  draw  only  such  portraits  as  should 
be  true  and  like  the  originals,  for  fear  that  sometimes 
they  would  be  thought  incredible,  and  appear  feigned 
or  imaginary  ones.  Becoming  yet  more  difficult  I  went 
farther,  and  took  one  lineament  from  one  person  and 
one  from  another,  and  from  these  several  lineaments, 
which  might  be  found  in  one  and  the  same  person,  I 
drew  some  likely  portraits,  studying  not  so  much  to 
please  the  reader  by  describing  the  characters  of  certain 
people,  or,  as  the  malcontents  would  say,  by  satirising 
them,  as  to  lay  before  him  what  faults  he  ought  to  avoid, 
and  what  examples  to  follow."  i 

Our  author,  therefore,  did  not  wish  to  depict  indi- 
viduals, but  men  in  general ;  for  man  is  the  same  in  all 
seasons  and  at  all  times,  and  is  swayed  by  the  same 
motives  and  passions,  though  they  exercise  a  different  in- 

1  Preface  to  La  Bruyere's  "  Speech  upon  his  Admisaion  as  a  Member  of 
the  French  Academy,  June  15,  1693." 


INTRODUCTION.  J^ 

fluence  in  various  ages,  produce  diflferent  results  amongst 
many  races,  and  do  not  even  act  in  precisely  the  same 
manner  in  divers  centuries,  climates,  and  under  hetero- 
geneous circumstances.  He  had  no  intention  of  pre- 
senting a  series  of  historical  events,^  but  of  depicting 
Frenchmen  at  the  end  of  the  seventeenth  century  as 
they  lived,  breathed,  and  moved ;  not  animated  by 
violent  likes  and  dislikes,  as  those  of  the  Ligue  or  the 
Fronde  were,  nor  filled  by  the  importance  of  their  own 
overweening  individualities.  When  we  read  him,  we 
behold  in  our  mind's  eye  the  subdued  subjects  of 
Louis  XIV.,  slavishly  obeying  the  "  Roi  Soleil,"  ad- 
mitting the  King  can  do  no  wrong,  becoming  devout 
to  please  His  Majesty  and  Madame  de  Maintenon,  inau- 
gurating the  reign  of  courtly  hypocrisy,  embracing  the 
principle  of  one  religion  in  one  state,  and  seeing  the 
royal  sun  gradually  decline,  and  the  star  of  William  III. 
in  its  ascendancy. 

The  notes  of  the  present  edition  are  necessary,  I 
imagine,  to  assist  in  illustrating  the  life  of  a  past  age, 
for  "  no  usages  or  customs  are  perennial,  but  they  vary 
with  the  times.  .  .  .  Nothing  can  be  more  opposed  to 
our  manners  than  all  these  things  ;  but  the  distance  of 
time  makes  us  relish  them."  The  "Characters"  them- 
selves, as  well  as  the  notes,  represent  a  "  history  of 
.  .  .  times,"  when  the  usual  custom  was  '-the  selling 
of  offices;  that  is  to  say,  the  power  of  protecting  innocence, 
punishing  guilt,  and  doing  justice  to  the  world,  bought 
with  ready  money  like  a  farm."     They  will  also  make 

1  Sir  Walter  Scott,  in  his  introduction  to  Dryden's  "Absalom  and  Achi- 
tophel,"  says:  "He  who  collects  a  gallery  of  portraits  disclaims,  by  the 
very  act  of  doing  so,  any  intention  of  presenting  a  series  of  historical  events. " 


l6  INTRODUCTION. 

my  readers  acquainted  with  "a  great  city,"  which  at  the 
end  of  the  seventeenth  century  was  "  without  any  pubHc 
places,  baths,  fountains,  amphitheatres,  galleries,  porticoes, 
or  public  walks,  and  this  the  capital  of  a  powerful 
kingdom ;  they  will  be  told  of  persons  whose  whole  life 
was  spent  in  going  from  one  house  to  another  ;  of  decent 
women  who  kept  neither  shops  nor  inns,  yet  had  their 
houses  open  for  those  who  would  pay  for  their  admission,^ 
and  where  they  could  choose  between  dice,  cards,  and 
other  games,  where  feasting  was  going  on,  and  which 
were  very  convenient  for  all  kinds  of  intercourse.  They 
will  be  informed  that  people  crowded  the  street  only  to 
be  thought  in  a  hurry ;  that  there  was  no  conversation 
nor  cordiality,  but  that  they  were  confused,  and,  as  it 
were,  alarmed  by  the  rattle  of  coaches  which  they 
had  to  avoid,  and  which  drove  through  the  streets 
as  if  for  a  prize  at  some  race.  People  will  learn, 
without  being  greatly  astonished,  that  in  tirnes  of  public 
peace  and  tranquillity,  the  inhabitants  went  to  church 
and  visited  ladies  and  their  friends,  whilst  wearing 
offensive  weapons  ;  and  that  there  was  hardly  any  one 
who  did  not  have  dangling  at  his  side  wherewith  to  kill 
another  person  with  one  thrust."  ^ 

La  Bruyere,  though  a  shrewd  observer,  has  the  daring 
of  an  innovator,  but  always  remains  very  guarded  in 
his  language.  When  now  and  then  his  feelings 
get    the    better    of    him,    he    expresses    his    opinions 

1  It  was  the  custom  in  Paris,  at  the  time  La  Bruyere  wrote,  for  any 
gentleman  or  lady  to  leave  part  of  their  gains  on  the  table,  to  pay,  as  it 
were,  for  the  cards  ;  hence  the  allusion. 

2  All  the  passages  on  pages  IJ  and  i6  between  inverted  commas  ("  ") 
have  been  taken  from  La  Bruyere's  "  Prefatory  Discourse  concerning 
Theophrastus." 


INTRODUCTION.  77 

like  a  man,  and  attacks  the  vices  of  his  age  with  a 
boldness  which  none  of  his  contemporaries  has  sur- 
passed. Nearly  the  whole  of  his  chapter  "  Of  the  Gifts 
of  Fortune  "  is  an  attack  on  the  financiers  ;  in  the  chap- 
ter "  Of  the  Great,"  he  certainly  does  not  flatter  the 
courtiers,  whilst  he  himself  never  pretends  to  be  any- 
thing else  but  "  a  plebeian,"  ^  and  almost  always  sides 
with  his  own  class.  If  he  flatters  the  king,  it  is  because 
he  thinks  him  necessary  to  the  state,  and,  perhaps,  also 
because  he  wishes  to  have  a  defender  against  the  many 
enemies  his  book  had  raised  up.  He  was,  moreover, 
very  cautious,  and  in  the  endless  alterations  he  made 
in  the  various  editions  of  the  "  Characters,"  ^  published 
during  his  lifetime,  he  but  seldom  envenomed  the  barb 
he  had  shot,  or  boasted  of  it  if  he  did  so.^  Though  he 
touched  on  all  the  passions  of  men,  he  did  not  set 
one  class  against  another,  a  task  which  was  left  to 
the  so-called  philosophical  authors  of  the  eighteenth 
century. 

The  style  of  La  Bruy^re  has  been  praised  by  com- 


1  See  the  Chapter  "  Of  the  Great,"  page  230,  §  25.  \Vhen,  in  the  Chapter 
"Of  Certain  Customs,"  page  408,  §  14,  he  speaks  of  his  "descent  from  a 
certain  Godfrey  de  la  Bruyere,"  he  does  so  jocularly. 

2  Compare  "  Preface,"  page  iv.,  "  I  did  not  hesitate,"  till  page  v.,  "and 
more  regular." 

3  In  his  "Introduction  to  the  Reader,"  printed  before  "Absalom  and 
Achitophel,"  and  published  in  1681,  Dryden  openly  admits :  "  I  have  laid 
in  for  those,  by  rebating  the  satire,  where  justice  would  allow  it,  from 
carrj'ing  too  sharp  an  edge.  They  who  can  criticise  so  weakly  as  to 
imagine  I  have  done  my  worst,  may  be  convinced  at  their  own  cost  that  I 
can  write  severely  with  more  ease  than  I  can  write  gently."  La  Bruyere 
would  never  have  ventured  to  speak  so  plainly,  and  this  difiference  between 
the  French  and  English  author  seems  very  characteristic  of  the  two 
nations.  Compare  also  Dryden's  poetic  delineation  of  Buckingham  as 
Zimri  to  La  Bruyere's  portrait  of  Lauzuu  as  Straton. 

b 


l8  INTRODUCTION. 

petent  judges  for  its  conciseness  and  picturesqueness  ; 
he  always  employs  the  right  word  in  the  right  place,  is 
correct  in  his  expressions,  varied  in  his  thoughts,  highly 
imaginative,  and,  therefore,  maybe  called  a  perfect  literary 
artist.1  A  few  words  and  expressions,  which  I  have 
noticed,  have  become  antiquated,  or  have  changed  their 
meaning,  but  the  "  Characters  "  will  still,  I  think,  be  read 
for  many  ages,  be  found  very  entertaining,  and,  what 
cannot  be  said  of  the  works  of  every  classical  French 
author,  will  be  better  liked  the  more  they  are  read.  If 
sometimes  one  of  the  characters  is  portrayed  with  too 
many  details,  it  is  because  it  is  taken  not  from  one  man, 
but  composed  of  a  series  of  shrewd  and  clever  observa- 
tions made  on  different  personages ;  and  hence  our 
author  calls  them  "  Characters,"  and  not  "portraits." 

Since  La  Bruy^re's  death  many  editions  of  the  "Char- 
acters "  have  appeared  ;  I  have  collated  and  compared 
the  best  of  them,  amongst  which  those  edited  by  Mons. 
G.  Servois  and  Mons.  A.  Chassang  have  laid  me  under 
great  obligations.  I  am  indebted  to  these  two  editions 
for  many  of  the  notes,  and  for  a  few  to  those  of  MM. 
Destailleur  and  Hdmardinquer. 

Several  imitations  of  the  "  Characters "  have  also 
been  published,  amongst  others  a  Petit  la  Bruyere,  oii 
Caracteres  et  iticsiirs  des  enfa}its  de  ce  sihle,  and  a  Le 
la  Bruylre  des  dofnestigues,  precede  de  considerations  sur 
Vetat  de  domesficite  en  gSn^ral,  both  by  that  voluminous 
author,  Madame  de  Genlis,  a  Le  la  Briiyhre  des  jeunes 
ge?is,  and  a  similar  work  for  jeunes  dentoiselles,  which 
attract  the  attention  by  the  oddity  of  their  titles. 

1  Perhaps  no  author  is  more  quoted  in  Littre's  Dictionnaire  de  la  langue 
/ranfaise  than  La  Bruyere  is. 


INTRODUCTION.  ig 

La  Bruy^re's  "  Characters  "  have  also  been  translated 
several  times  into  English. 

1.  A  translation  seems  to  have  been  published  in 
London  as  early  as  1698.^ 

2.  The  "  Characters  of  Theophrastus,"  translated 
from  M.  Bruy^re's  French  version  by  Eustace  Budgell, 
Esq.,  London,  1699;  and  another  edition  of  the  same 
work  published  in  1702.2 

3.  The  "  Characters  of  Theophrastus,"  together  vk^ith 
the  Characters  of  the  Age,  by  La  Bruy^re,  with  a  prefa- 
tory discourse  and  key  :  London,  1700.^ 

4.  The  "  Characters,  or  the  Manners  of  the  Age,"  by 
Monsieur  de  la  Bruy^re  of  the  French  Academy,  made 
English  by  several  hands,  with  the  "  Characters  of 
Theophrastus,"  translated  from  the  Greek,  and  a  pre- 
fatory discourse  to  them,  by  Monsieur  de  la  Bruyere, 
the  third  edition,  corrected  throughout,  and  enlarged, 
with  the  Key  inserted  in  the  margin  :  London,  Leach, 
1702. 

5.  The  Works  of  Monsieur  de  la  Bruyere,  containing  : 
L  The  Moral  Characters  of  Theophrastus  ;  II.  The 
Characters,  or  the  Manners  of  the  Present  Age;  III. 
M.  Bruy^re's  Speech  upon  his  Admission  into  the 
French  Academy  ;  IV.  An  Account  of  the  Life  and 
Writings  of  M.  Bruyere,  by  Monsieur  Coste,  with  an 
original  Chapter  of  the  Manner  of  Living  with  Great 

1  M.  G.  Servois,  in  his  bibliographic  Notice  of  La  Bruyere's  works,  &c. , 
vol.  iii.,  first  part,  quotes  a  passage  from  the  London  correspondent  of  the 
Histoire  des  Ouvrages  des  savants  (see  page  ig,  note  3)  in  affirmation  of 
this  statement,  and  seems  to  think  this  translation  to  have  been  the  first 
edition  of  the  one  mentioned  in  No.  4. 

2  Watt's  "  Bibliotheca  Britannica." 

3  According  to  M.  Servois,  this  edition  is  mentioned  in  Lowndes'  "  Tiie 
Bibliographer's  Manual,"  but  I  have  not  been  able  to  find  it  there. 


20  INTRODUCTION. 

Men,  written  after  the  method  of  M.  Bruyfere,  by  N. 
Rowe,  Esq.  This  translation  seems  to  have  been  very 
successful,  for  the  sixth  edition,  the  only  one  I  have 
seen,  was  published  in  two  volumes  in  1 7 1 3  :  London, 
E.  Curll. 

6.  The  Moral  Characters  of  Theophrastus,  by  H. 
Gaily:  London,  1725. 

7.  The  Works  of  M.  de  la  Bruy&re,  in  two  volumes, 
to  which  is  added  the  Characters  of  Theophrastus,  also 
The  Manner  of  Living  with  Great  Men,  written  after  the 
manner  of  Bruy^re,  by  N.  Rowe,  Esq. :  London,  J.  Bell, 
1776. 

I  have  consulted  the  edition  mentioned  in  No.  2,  and 
printed  in  1702,  in  which  the  attacks  of  La  Bruy^re  on 
William  III.  in  the  Chapter  "  Of  Opinions,"  §§  118  and 
119,  are  omitted;  the  sixth  edition  of  the  "Charac- 
ters," given  in  No.  5,  and  published  in  1713;  and 
the  edition  referred  to  in  No.  7. 

In  the  "  Advertisement  concerning  the  new  edition " 
of  17 1 3,  printed  with  the  "Characters,"  it  is  stated, 
"  We  procured  the  last  English  edition  to  be  compared 
verbatim  with  the  last  Paris  edition  (which  is  the  ninth), 
and  ...  all  the  Supplemental  Reflections  ...  we  got 
translated,  and  added  to  this  present  edition ;  and  that 
it  might  be  as  complete  as  possible,  we  have  not  scrupled 
to  translate  even  those  parts  which  at  first  sight  may 
perhaps  disoblige  some  who  have  a  just  veneration  for 
the  memory  of  our  Glorious  Deliverer,  the  late  King 
William."  La  Bruyfere's  speech  upon  his  admission  into 
the  French  Academy  was  in  this  edition  "  made  English 
by  M.  Ozell." 


INTRODUCTION.  21 

In  the  edition  of  1776,  the  "parts"  reflecting  on 
William  III.  are  again  omitted.  It  greatly  differs  from 
the  one  of  17 13,  and  is  dedicated  to  the  Right  Hon- 
ourable Henry,  Earl  of  Lincoln,  Auditor  of  the  Ex- 
chequer, Knight  of  the  most  noble  order  of  the  Garter, 
&c.  &c. 

Many  faults  may  be  found  in  the  old  translations, 
but  I  have  endeavoured  to  amend  them  ;  and  I  never 
scrupled  to  adopt  any  expressions,  turn  of  thought,  or 
even  page  of  any  or  every  translation  of  my  pre- 
decessors, whenever  I  found  I  could  not  improve  upon 
them. 

Translations  of  the  "  Characters  "  have  appeared  in 
several  other  langfuages  ;  four  of  these  were  published 
in  German,  the  last  one  printed  in  1872,  whilst  already 
the  final  chapter  of  La  Bruy^re's  book  "  Of  Freethinkers  " 
had  come  out  in  a  German  dress  in  1739;  Tioreover, 
La  Bruy^re's  book  has  been  translated  twice  into  Italian, 
once  into  Spanish,  and  once  into  Russian. 

The  imitations  of  the  "  Characters  "  into  English  are — 

1.  "  The  English  Theophrastus,  or  the  Manners  of  the 
Age,  being  the  modern  Characters  of  the  Court,  the 
Town,  and  the  City,"  by  Boyer  :  London,  1692  and  1702. 

2.  The  Chapter  "  Of  the  Manner  of  Living  with 
Great  Men,"  written  after  the  method  of  M.  Bruy^re,  by 
N.  Rowe,  mentioned  already. 

3.  Imitations  of  the  Characters  of  Theophrastus : 
London,  1774. 

I  imagine  that  the  author  of  the  "  English  Theophras- 
tus "  was  M.  Abel  Boyer,  the  compiler  of  the  well-known 
dictionary,  bom  at  Castres  in  1664,  who  fled  to  Eng- 


22  INTRODUCTION, 

land  at    the  revocation    of  the    Edict    of  Nantes,   and 
died  at  Chelsea  in  1729. 

The  direct  influence  of  La  Bruy&re's  writings  on 
English  literature  is  not  easily  to  be  traced.  Swift 
may,  possibly,  have  studied  him,  though  he  never  men- 
tions him,i  and  so  may,  perhaps,  Anthony  Cooper,  third 
earl  of  Shaftesbury,^  *'who  spoke  French  so  fluently, 
and  with  so  perfect  an  accent,  that  in  France  he  was 


1  I  imagine  I  can  observe  slight  traces  of  La  Bruyere  in  Swift's  "Account 
of  the  Empire  of  Japan,  written  in  1728,"  beginning  with  the  words  :  "  Re- 
goge  was  the  34th  emperor  of  Japan  ; "  in  nearly  all  he  wrote  for  the 
Tatler  ;  in  many  of  the  portraits  to  be  found  in  the  Examiner,  for  example 
in  the  portrait  of  "Laurence  Hyde,  late  earl  of  Rochester,"  beginning 
with  the  words:  "The  person  who  now  presides  at  the  Council,  etc." 
Compare  also  "A  Short  Character  of  Thomas,  Earl  of  Wharton  ; "  the 
"  Narrative  of  Guiscard's  Examination  ;"  and  in  the  "  True  Relation  of  the 
Intended  Riot,"  the  passage  beginning  with  "  the  surprising  generosity,  and 
fit  of  housekeeping  the  German  princess  has  been  guilty  of  this  summer." 
Swift,  moreover,  possesses  a  far  more  trenchant  style  than  the  French  author, 
but  I  im:igine  the  latter  did  as  much  execution,  though  he  used  a  rapier, 
whilst  Swift  employed  a  bludgeon. 

2  There  are  few  portraits  in  Shaftesbury's  "Characteristics;"  one  of  the 
few  exceptions  being  the  portrait  of  "a  notable  enthusiast  of  the  itinerant 
kind,"  supposed  to  be  Van  Helmont ;  now  and  then,  however,  he  seems  to 
have  borrowed  a  few  ideas  of  La  Bruyere,  as  for  example,  in  the  second 
section  of  "  A  Letter  concerning  Enthusiasm,"  his  remarks  on  criticism  and 
ridicule.  Compare  also  Shaftesbury  in  section  2,  saying :  "  The  vulgar, 
indeed,  may  swallow  any  sordid  jest,  any  mere  drollery  or  buffoonery;  but  it 
must  be  a  finer  and  truer  wit  which  takes  the  men  of  sense  and  breeding,"  to 
La  Bruyere's  Chapter  "  Of  Works  of  the  Mind,"  §§  51,  52  ;  the  whole  of  this 

'  Letter  "  is  somewhat  like  La  Bruyere,  as  in  section  iv.  the  crafty  beggars, 
addressing  some  one  they  meet  in  a  coach,  and  of  whose  quality  they  are 
ignorant.  In  Shaftesbury's  "  Sensus  Communis,  an  Essay  on  the  Freedom  of 
Wit  and  Humour,"  part  i,  section  3,  his  remarks  about  true  raillery ;  and 
the  opening  of  the  second  part,  section  i  :  "  If  a  native  of  Ethiopia  were  of  a 
sudden  transported  into  Europe,"  etc.,  as  well  as  in  the  "  Soliloquy,"  the 
allegory  of  the  love-spent  nobleman,  and  in  the  "Moralists"  the  portraits  of 
Palemon,  Philocles,  and  Theocles,  and  the  opening  of  the  third  part, 
"  it   was    yet  deep  night,"   appear  somewhat   like   reminiscences  of  the 

French  author. 


INTRODUCTION.  2J 

often  mistaken  for  a  native."  ^  I  venture  to  think  that 
Addison  and  Steele  were  also  acquainted  with  our 
Frenchman  ;  ^  but  the  English  author  who  in  expres- 
sion, turn  of  thought,  art  of  delineating  character,  and 
in  his  mixture  of  seriousness  and  familiarity,  is  most 
like  him,  is  a  doctor  of  divinity,  R.  South,  Prebendary 
of  Westminster,  and  Canon  of  Christ  Church,  and  yet 
he  wrote  before  La  Bruy^re,  and  therefore  cannot  have 
imitated  him.^ 

1  "  English  Philosophers  :  "  Shaftesbury  and  Hutcheson.  By  Thomas 
Fowler,  President  of  Corpus  Christi  College  :  London,  1882. 

'  It  will,  of  course,  be  impossible  to  give  "chapter  and  verse  "  for  every 
passage  of  the  "  Spectator  "  which  is  faintly  like  one  of  La  Bruyere's 
observations,  nor  do  I  mean  to  say  that  Addison,  Steele,  and  the  other 
contributors  to  the  English  paper  borrowed  literally,  and  without  acknow- 
ledgment, from  the  French  author.  But  what  I  intended  to  convey  was 
that,  though  the  humour  of  the  Spectator  and  its  Sir  Roger  de  Coverley, 
Sir  Andrew  Freeport,  Will  Honeycomb,  Captain  Sentry,  &c.,  are  pre- 
eminently English,  several  of  the  remarks  and  portraits  to  be  found  there 
are  more  or  less  inspired  by  a  careful  study  of  La  Bruyere.  Compare 
for  example  Addison's  paper  about  the  opera,  Spectator  No.  5,  to  §  47  of 
La  Bruyere's  Chapter  "  Of  Works  of  the  Mind  ;  "  and  the  remarks  in  No.  10 
of  the  Spectator,  about  the  occupations  of  the  female  world,  and  Nos.  144, 
156,  and  No.  265  of  the  same  paper,  with  some  paragraphs  of  La  Bruyere's 
Chapter  "  Of  Women."  Nos.  45,  57,  77,  88,  98,  100,  129,  193,  236,  238, 
and  494,  appear  to  me  somewhat  like  several  of  La  Bruyere's  paragraphs. 
The  "  fair  youth  "  in  No.  104  of  the  "Spectator"  is  not  unlike  a  reverse 
picture  of  La  Bruyere's  portrait  of  Iphis  in  the  Chapter  "  Of  Fashion,"  page 
389,  §  14 ;  whilst  the  remark  in  No.  226,  "  Who  is  the  better  man  for  be- 
holding the  most  beautiful  Venus,"  &c.,  reminds  one  of  La  Bruyfere's  re- 
mark on  obscene  "  pictures  painted  for  certain  princes  of  the  Cnurch,"  in 
his  Chapter  "  Of  Certi.in  Customs,"  page  409,  J  17.  Steele's  opinions  about 
corporal  punishments  (Spectator,  No  157)  are  very  much  in  advance  of 
those  of  La  Bruyere  on  the  same  subject ;  the  English  author  remarks 
about  Louis  XIV.  (Spectator,  No.  180  and  200)  should  be  compared  with 
La  Bruyere's  glorification  of  the  same  monarch. 

3  I  have  consulted  the  edition  of  Dr.  R.  South's  sermons,  eleven  vols.,  the 
first  six  published  by  H.  Lintot,  1732  ;  the  last  five  by  Charles  Bathurst, 
1744.      In    the    sermon    preached   at   Westminster  Abbey,    February  22 


24  INTRODUCTION. 

I  am  not  aware  La  Bruy^re  knew  English,  though 
his  successor  at  the  French  Academy  states  that 
he  spoke  several  foreign  languages  ;  ^  he  was  well 
acquainted  with  German,  Italian,  and  I  think  also 
Spanish  ;  nor  do  I  know  if  any  of  Dr.  South's  ser- 
mons were  published  separately  before  La  Bruy^re 
wrote,  and  if  he,  therefore,  could  have  seen  them.  I 
should  imagine  he  never  read  any  of  them. 

Six  portraits,  which  adorn  these  volumes,  have  been 

1684-85,  on  Prov.  xvi.  33:  "The  lot  is  cast  into  the  lap,"  &c.,  the 
passage  about  Alexander  the  Great,  in  his  famed  expedition  against 
Darius,  the  remarks  about  Hannibal  and  Csesar,  Agathocles,  the  potter 
who  became  King,  Masaniello,  and  finally  what  the  Doctor  says  about 
Cromwell ."  "  and  who,  that  had  beheld  such  a  bankrupt  beggarly  fellow 
as  Cromwell  first  entering  the  Parliament  House,  with  a  threadbare,  torn 
cloak,  and  a  greasy  hat  (and  perhaps  neither  of  them  paid  for),  could  have 
suspected  that  in  the  space  of  so  few  years,  he  should,  by  the  murder  of  one 
king,  and  the  banishment  of  another,  ascend  the  throne,  be  invested  in  the 
royal  robes,  and  want  nothing  of  the  state  of  a  king,  but  the  changing  of 
his  hat  into  a  crown,"  seem  like  some  expressions  of  La  Bruyere.  Compare 
also  sermon  x.  :  "  Good  Intentions  no  Excuse  for  Bad  Actions,"  full  of  pithy 
characteristics  in  word-painting,  and  his  sermons:  "The  Fatal  Imposture 
and  Force  of  Words,"  Isaiah  v.  20,  "Woe  unto  them  that  call  evil  good  and 
good  evil,"  which  are  very  La  Bruyeresque,  and  somewhat  like  several 
paragraphs  of  the  Chapter  "  Of  Certain  Customs."  See  also  in  "The 
Nature  and  Measures  of  Conscience,"  a  sermon  preached  Nov.  i,  1691, 
the  portrait  of  the  "potent  sinner  upon  earth,"  and  a  sermon  on  "  Pretence 
of  Conscience  no  Excuse  for  Rebellion,"  preached  before  Charles  II., 
13th  January,  1662-63,  the  anniversary  of  the  "execrable  murder"  of 
Charles  I.,  in  which  South  says,  "  I  wonder  where  the  blasphemy  lies 
which  .some  charge  upon  those  who  make  the  king's  suffering  something 
to  resemble  our  Saviour's."  Compare  finally  the  portrait  of  the  "  cozening, 
lying,  perjured  shop-keeper''  in  the  second  sermon,  "On  Avarice  as  con- 
tradictory to  Religion,"  with  La  Bruyere's  tradesman  in  his  Chapter  "  Of 
the  Gifts  of  Fortune,"  §  43. 

1  The  Abbe  Claude  Fleury,  the  learned  author  of  the  Histoire  Ecclesi- 
astique,  who  succeeded  La  Bruyere  as  a  member  of  the  French  Academy, 
said  of  his  predecessor  in  his  opening  speech :  "  II  savait  les  langues  mortes 
et  les  vivantes." 


INTRODUCTION.  25 

specially  etched  for  this  edition  by  M.  B,  Damman, 
whilst  the  portrait  of  La  Bruy^re,  and  the  vignettes  at  the 
head  of  each  chapter,  have  been  drawn  and  etched  by 
M.  V.  Foulquier. 

In  the  biographical  memoir  of  La  Bruy&re,   I  have 
only  stated  what  is  known  of  him,  which  is  very  little. 

HENRI   VAN   LAUN. 


A  BIOGRAPHICAL  MEMOIR 


JEAN     DE     LA     BRUYERE. 

;0R  a  long  time  it  has  generally  been  taken 
for  granted  that  our  author  first  saw  the 
light  at  Dourdan,  a  small  town  in  the  de- 
partment of  Seine-et-Oise,  but  it  has  only 
lately  been  discovered  that  he  was  born  in  Paris  in  the 
month  of  August  1645.  His  father,  Louis  de  la  Bruyfere, 
was  controleur  des  rentes  de  la  ville,  a  sort  of  town-tax 
collector,  whilst  his  mother,  Elizabeth  Hamonin,  be- 
longed to  a  respectable  family  of  Parisian  burgesses. 
His  grandfather  and  great-grandfather  on  the  father's 
side,  declared  partisans  of  the  Ligue,  were  both  exiled 
from  France  when  Henri  IV.  came  to  the  throne. 
Perhaps,  therefore,  the  feelings  our  author  entertained 
for  the  people  may  be  explained  by  atavism.  A  younger 
brother  of  his  father  and  our  author's  godfather,  a  very 
wealthy  man,  and  most  likely  a  money-lender,  as  well 
as  interested  in  the  farming  of  certain  taxes,  seems  to 
have  produced  no  favourable  impression  on  his  god-son, 
for  the  latter  always  attacks  the  farmers  of  the  revenue. 
Jean  de  la  Bruy^re  was  educated  at  the  Oratorians 
in  Paris,  and  two  years  before  his  father  died,  in  the 


BIOGRAPHICAL    MEMOIR.  2/ 

month  of  June  1664,  took  his  degree  of  licentiate  at 
law  at  the  University  of  Orleans.  He  became  an  advo- 
cate, but  in  1673,  when  twenty-eight  years  old,  he  for- 
sook the  bar,  and  bought  for  about  24,000  livres  the 
post  of  trhorier  des  finances  in  the  Caen  district,  in 
Normandy.  There  were  fifteen  tresoriers  at  Caen,  of 
whom  only  some  were  obliged  to  reside  there,  but  all 
became  ennobled  by  virtue  of  their  office,  and  received 
as  non-residents  a  yearly  salary  of  about  2500  livres. 
La  Bruy^re  had  bought  this  treasurership  of  a  certain 
Joseph  Metezeau,  said  to  have  been  a  relative  by  mar- 
riage of  Bossuet,  but  this  is  not  at  all  proved  ;  and  in 
1686,  about  two  years  before  he  was  going  to  publish 
the  "  Characters,"  and  when  already  he  had  been  for 
some  time  one  of  the  teachers  of  the  Duke  de  Bourbon, 
a  grandson  of  the  Prince  Louis  de  Condd,  he  sold  again 
his  post  for  18,000  livres  to  Charles-Francois  de  la 
Bonde,  Seigneur  d'Iberville. 

On  the  recommendation  of  Bossuet,  La  Bruy^re,  in 
1684,  had  been  appointed  teacher  of  history  to  the  Duke 
de  Bourbon ;  and  remained  with  the  Condds  for  twelve 
years,  until  the  day  of  his  death.  He  instructed  his 
pupil  not  only  in  history,  but  also  in  geography,  litera- 
ture, and  philosophy ;  yet  his  lessons  appear  to  have 
produced  no  great  impression,  and  moreover,  they  did 
not  last  very  long,  for  the  youthful  duke  married  in 
1685  a  daughter  of  Madame  de  Montespan  and  Louis 
XIV.,1  and  La  Bruy^re  received  then  the  appointment 
of  eciiyer  gentilhomme  to  Henri  Jules,  Duke  of  Bourbon, 
the  father  of  his  former  pupil. 

1  See  the  Chapter  "Of  Mankind,"  page  289,  note  2. 


28  BIOGRAPHICAL   MEMOIR, 

Why  La  Bruy^re  ever  accepted  the  post  of  teacher, 
and  afterwards  of  "  gentleman  in  waiting,"  cannot  be 
elucidated  at  the  present  time ;  he  may  have  suffered 
reverses  of  fortune,  which  compelled  him  to  gain  a 
livelihood,  but  in  any  case  he  made  the  best  use  of 
his  residence  with  a  noble  family,  by  studying  the 
personages  whose  vices  and  ridicules  he  so  admirably 
portrayed.  Living  with  the  Cond^s  at  their  hotel  at 
Paris,  at  their  country  seats  at  Chantilly  and  Saint  Maur, 
or  v^hen  they  were  visiting  the  Court,  at  Versailles, 
Marly,  Fontainebleau,  or  Chambord,  amidst  the  noble 
and  high-born  of  the  land,  without  being  considered  one 
of  them,  he  had  the  best  opportunity  of  penetrating  the 
characters  of  those  men  who  strutted  about  in  gaudy  trap- 
pings, and  lorded  it  over  the  common  herd,  whilst  solicit- 
ing offices  or  dignities  ;  and  for  observing  that  these  men 
were  neither  superior  in  feelings  nor  intellect  to  the 
"  common  people."  ^ 

All  his  reflections  and  observations  he  arranged  under 
a  certain  number  of  headings,  called  the  whole  of  them 
"  Characters,"  and  read  some  passages  to  a  few  of  his 
friends,  who  seem  not  to  have  been  greatly  smitten 
by  them.  But  this  did  not  discourage  La  Bruy^re  ; 
he  translated  into  French  the  "  Characters  "  of  Theo- 
phrastus,  a  Greek  philosopher  of  the  peripatetic  school, 
the  successor  of  Aristotle  as  the  head  of  the  Academy, 
who  seems  to  have  lived  until  about  the  year  285  B.C., 
wrote  a  prefatory  discourse  to  them,  in  which  he  dis- 
played more  satirical  power  than  in  any  of  his  other 

1  See  the  Chapter  "  Of  the  Great,"  page  242,  §  53. 


BIOGRAPHICAL   MEMOIR.  2Q 

works,  1  and  resolved  to  publish  his  translation,  and  to 
print  as  a  kind  of  appendix  his  own  "  Characters  "  at 
the  end  of  it.  One  day,^  whilst  La  Bruy^re  was  sitting 
in  the  shop  of  a  certain  bookseller,  named  Michallet, 
which  he  visited  almost  daily,  and  was  playing  with  the 
shopkeeper's  little  daughter,  he  took  the  manuscript  of 
the  *'  Characters  "  out  of  his  pocket,  and  told  Michallet 
he  might  print  it  if  he  liked,  and  keep  the  profits,  if 
there  were  any,  as  a  dowry  for  his  child.  The  book- 
seller hesitated  for  some  time,  but  finally  published 
it,  and  the  sale  of  it  was  so  large  that  he  brought  out 
one  edition  after  another  as  quick  as  he  could. 

It  is  certain  that  the  publication  of  the  "  Characters  "  in 
1688  made  its  author  many  enemies,  but  he  calmly  pur- 
sued the  even  tenor  of  his  way,  and  increased  the  number 
of  his  paragraphs  during  the  remaining  portion  of  his  life.^ 

In  1 69 1  he  endeavoured  to  be  elected  a  member  of 
the  French  Academy,  and  to  become  the  successor  of 
Benserade,*  but  failed,  thanks  to  the  number  of  his 
enemies,  amongst  whom  probably  Fontenelle  and 
Thomas  Corneille,  the  nephew  and  brother  of  the  great 
poet  Pierre  Corneille,  were  the  most  active ;  yet  in 
1693  he  was  elected   without  having  made   the   usual 


1  Some  of  the  pa<;sages  of  this  "  Prefatory  Discourse  "  will  be  found  in 
the  Introduction. 

2  In  a  lecture  read  before  the  Academy  of  Sciences  and  Literature  of 
Berlin,  the  23d  of  August  1787,  and  printed  in  the  memoirs  of  that  Academy, 
Formey  told  this  story  on  the  authority  of  M.  de  Maupertuis,  who  is  said  to 
have  heard  it  from  the  lady  herself,  the  wife  of  the  financier,  Charles  Remy 
de  July,  to  whom  she  brougiit  a  dowry  of  more  than  100,000  livrcs. 

3  See  note  3,  page  4. 

♦  See  the  Chapter  "Of  Society  and  Conversation,"  page  122,  §  66,  and 
note  I  ;  about  Fontenelle,  see  in  the  same  Chapter  the  character  of  Cydias, 
page  127,  §  75. 


JO  BIOGRAPHICAL   MEMOIR. 

visits  to  the  Academicians  to  solicit  their  votes,^  though 
his  friends,  Racine,  Boileau,  the  secretary  of  state,  de 
Pontchartrain,2  and  others,  used  all  their  influence  to 
ensure  his  nomination. 

The  speech  he  delivered  at  his  reception  seems  not 
to  have  given  general  satisfaction,  for  La  Bruy^re 
defended  the  partisans  of  the  classical  and  attacked 
those  of  the  modern  school,  proclaimed  Boileau  a  judi- 
cious critic,  and  hardly  admitted  Corneille  to  be  the 
equal  of  Racine.  This  speech,  preceded  by  a  very 
satirical  preface,^  in  which  he  ridiculed  his  enemies 
under  the  name  of  "  Theobalds,"  was  published  with 
the  eighth  edition  of  the  "  Characters." 

But  if  he  had  bitter  enemies  he  had  also  warm  friends, 
amongst  whom,  besides  the  illustrious  men  I  have 
already  named,  must  be  reckoned  :  Phdlypeaux,  the  son 
of  de  Pontchartrain  ;  the  Marquis  de  Termes  ;  Bossuet, 
and  his  nephew  the  Abb^  Bossuet  ;  F^nelon  ;  de 
Malesieu  ;  Renaudot  ;  de  Valincourt ;  Regnier-Desma- 
rais  ;  La  Loub^re,  and  Bouhier,  nearly  all  present  or 
future  members  of  the  French  Academy  ;  the  poet 
Santeuil,  and  the  historian  Caton  de  Court. 

We  hardly  know  anything  for  certain  of  the  character 
of  La  Bruyere  except  by  the  glimpses  we  get  now  and 
then  in  his  book,  or  by  what  is  told  of  him  in  some  of 
the  letters  and  writings  of  his  friends  and  enemies.  He 
was  unmarried,  and  seems  to  have  been  a  man  of  a 
modest  disposition,  fond  of  his  books  and  his  friends, 

1  This  he  stated  openly  in  the  speech  he  delivered  at  his  reception  at  the 
Academy,  the  15th  of  June  1693  ;  his  enemies  would  certainly  have  contra- 
dicted him  if  it  had  not  been  the  truth. 

2  See  the  Chapter  "  Of  the  Court,"  page  201,  note  2. 

3  In  the  Introduction  are  to  be  found  some  extracts  from  this  preface. 


BIOGRAPHICAL   MEMOIR.  JI 

polite  in  his  manners,  and  willing  to  oblige.  I  imagine 
he  must  have  felt  it  sometimes  hard  to  be  dependent  on 
so  fantastic,  suspicious,  half-demented  a  man  as  was  the 
father  of  his  former  pupil,  above  all,  after  the  death  of 
the  great  Condd,  which  took  place  on  the  8th  of  December 
1 686,1  and  also  to  have  disliked  being  made  now  and 
then  the  butt  of  courtiers  ^  his  mental  inferiors,  but 
aristocratic  superiors  ;  hence  he  was  often  silent  for 
fear  of  being  laughed  at.^ 

He  was  scarcely  fifty  when,  according  to  some  re- 
ports, he  became  suddenly  deaf;  a  few  days  afterwards, 
during  the  night  of  the  loth  of  May  1696,  he  died  of 
an  attack  of  apoplexy  at  the  hotel  of  the  Cond^s  at 
Versailles. 

In  1699  were  published  some  Dialogues  siir  le 
Quietisme,  attributed  to  La  Bruy^re  ;  but  as  the  editor, 
the  Abbd  du  Pin,  admitted  he  had  partly  altered  them, 
as  well  as  added  some  of  his  own,  it  is  difficult  to  judge 
what  was  the  original  share  of  our  author  in  their  com- 
position. 

Only  twenty-one  authenticated  letters  of  La  Bruyere 
are  in  existence,  of  which  seventeen  are  in  the  collec- 
tion of  the  Duke  d'Aumale,  at  Twickenham. 

1  La  Bruyere's  bitter  feelings  appear  in  such  paragraphs  as  g  43,  page  56  ; 
in  the  Chapter  "Of  the  Town,"  page  166,  §  4  ;  in  that  "Of  the  Great," 
pages  223  and  224,  §§  11  and  12 ;  page  232,  §  33 ;  and  in  the  Chapter  "  Of 
Opinions,"  page  334,  §  19.  Moliere  felt  a  somewhat  similar  bitterness ;  at 
least  in  the  dedication  of  les  Fdcheux  he  says  to  Louis  XIV.  :  "  Those 
that  are  born  in  an  elevated  rank  may  propose  to  themselves  the  honour  of 
serving  your  Majesty  in  great  employments  ;  but,  for  my  part,  all  the  glory 
I  can  aspire  to,  is  to  amuse  you."  Compare  also  Shakespeare's  hundred 
and  eleventh  Sonnet  beginning — "  Oh  !  for  my  sake  do  you  with  Fortune 
chide." 

2  See  the  Chapter  "  Of  Society  and  of  Conversation,"  page  120,  |§  56,  57. 
8  See  in  the  Chapter  "  Of  the  Great,"  page  230,  §  26,  which  seems  to  me 

to  prove  this  fear. 


PREFACE. 


' '  Admonere  voluimus,  non  mordere  ;  prodesse,  non  laedere  ; 
consulere  moribus  hominum,  non  officere."  ^ 

'X'HE  subject-matter  of  this  work  being  borrowed  from 
the  public,  I  now  give  back  to  it  what  it  lent  me  ;  it 
is  but  right  that  having  finished  the  whole  work  through- 
out with  the  utmost  regard  to  truth  I  am  capable  of, 

1  "We  have  wished  to  warn  and  not  to  bite;  to  be  useful  and  not  to 
wound  ;  to  benefit  the  morals  of  men,  and  not  to  be  detrimental  to  them." 
This  quotation  is  taken  from  one  of  the  letters  of  Erasmus  to  Martin  Dor- 
pius,  in  which  the  former  replies  to  some  criticisms  on  his  "  Praise  of  Folly." 
The  preface  to  the  "  Characters,"  altered  and  augmented  several  times 
by  the  author  himself,  is  found  for  the  first  time,  in  its  present  form,  in  the 
eighth  edition  of  his  work. 

A 


11  PREFACE. 

and  which  it  deserves  from  me,  I  should  make  restitu- 
tion of  it.  The  world  may  view  at  leisure  its  picture 
drawn  from  life,  and  may  correct  any  of  the  faults  I 
have  touched  upon,  if  conscious  of  them.  This  is  the 
only  goal  a  man  ought  to  propose  to  himself  in  writing, 
though  he  must  not  in  the  least  expect  to  be  successful ; 
however,  as  long  as  men  are  not  disgusted  with  vice  we 
should  also  never  tire  of  admonishing  them  ;  they  would 
perhaps  grow  worse  were  it  not  for  censure  or  reproof, 
and  hence  the  need  of  preaching  and  writing.  Neither 
orators  nor  authors  can  conceal  the  joy  they  feel  on  being 
applauded,  whereas  they  ought  to  blush  if  they  aim  at 
nothing  more  than  praise  in  their  speeches  or  writings  ; 
besides,  the  surest  and  least  doubtful  approbation  is  a 
change  and  regeneration  in  the  morals  of  their  readers 
and  hearers.  We  should  neither  write  nor  speak  but  to 
instruct ;  yet,  if  we  happen  to  please,  we  should  not  be 
sorry  for  it,  since  by  those  means  we  render  those  in- 
structive truths  more  palatable  and  acceptable.  When, 
therefore,  any  thoughts  or  reflections  have  slipped  into  a 
book  which  are  neither  so  spirited,  well  written,  nor  vivid 
as  others,  though  they  seem  to  have  been  inserted  for 
the  sake  of  variety,  as  a  relaxation  to  the  mind,  or  to 
draw  its  attention  to  what  is  to  follow,  the  reader  should 
reject  and  the  author  delete  them,  unless  they  are  attrac- 
tive, familiar,  instructive,  and  adapted  to  the  capacity  of 
ordinary  people,  whom  we  must  by  no  means  neglect. 

This  is  one  way  of  settling  things ;  there  is  another 
which  my  own  interest  trusts  may  be  adopted ;  and  that 
is,  not  to  lose  sight  of  my  title,  and  always  to  bear  in 
mind,  as  often  as  this  book  is  read,  that  I  describe  "  The 
Characters  or  Manners  of  the  Age  ; "  for  though  I  fre- 
quently take  them  from  the  court  of  France  and  from 


PREFACE.  Ill 

men  of  my  own  nation,  yet  they  cannot  be  confined  to 
any  one  court  or  country,  without  greatly  impairing  the 
compass  and  utility  of  my  book,  and  departing  from  the 
design  of  the  work,  which  is  to  paint  mankind  in  general, 
as  well  as  from  the  reasons  for  the  order  of  my  chapters, 
and  even  from  a  certain  gradual  connection  between 
the  reflections  in  each  of  those  chapters.  After  this  so 
necessary  precaution,  the  consequences  of  which  are 
obvious  enough,  I  think  I  may  protest  against  all 
resentment,  complaint,  malicious  interpretation,  false 
apphcation  and  censure,  against  insipid  railers  and 
cantankerous  readers.  People  ought  to  know  how  to 
read  and  then  hold  their  tongues,  unless  able  to  relate 
what  they  have  read,  and  neither  more  nor  less  than 
what  they  have  read,  which  they  sometimes  can  do  ; 
but  this  is  not  sufficient — they  must  also  be  willing  to 
do  it.  Without  these  conditions,  which  a  careful  and 
scrupulous  author  has  a  right  to  demand  from  some 
people,  as  the  sole  reward  of  his  labour,  I  question 
whether  he  ought  to  continue  writing,  if  at  least  he 
prefers  his  private  satisfaction  to  the  public  good  and  to 
his  zeal  for  truth.  I  confess,  moreover,  that  since  the 
year  MDCLXXXX,  and  before  pubhshing  the  fifth 
edition,  I  was  divided  between  an  impatience  to  cast 
my  book  into  a  fuller  and  better  shape  by  adding  new 
Characters,  and  a  fear  lest  some  people  should  say:  "Will 
there  never  be  an  end  to  these  Characters,  and  shall  we 
never  see  anything  else  from  this  author  ?  "  On  the  one 
hand  several  persons  of  sound  common-sense  told  me  : 
"  The  subject-matter  is  solid,  useful,  pleasant,  inexhaus- 
tible ;  may  you  live  for  a  long  time,  and  treat  it  without 
interruption  as  long  as  you  live !  what  can  you  do 
better  ?     The  follies  of  mankind  will  ensure  you  a  volume 


IV  PREFACE. 

every  year."  Others,  again,  with  a  good  deal  of  reason, 
made  me  dread  the  fickleness  of  the  multitude  and 
the  instability  of  the  public,  with  whom,  however,  I  have 
good  cause  to  be  satisfied  ;  they  were  always  suggesting 
to  me  that  for  the  last  thirty  years,  few  persons  read 
except  for  the  pleasure  of  reading,  and  not  to  improve 
themselves,  and  that,  to  amuse  mankind,  fresh  chapters 
and  a  new  title  were  needed  ;  that  this  sluggishness  had 
filled  the  shops  and  crowded  the  world  with  dull  and 
tedious  books,  written  in  a  bad  style  and  without  any 
intelligence,  order,  or  the  least  correctness,  against  all 
morality  or  decency,  written  in  a  hurry,  and  read  in  the 
same  way,  and  then  only  for  the  sake  of  novelty  ;  and 
that  if  I  could  do  nothing  else  but  enlarge  a  sensible 
book,  it  would  be  much  better  for  me  to  take  a  rest. 
I  adopted  something  of  both  those  advices,  though  they 
were  at  variance  with  one  another,  and  observed  an 
impartiality  which  clashed  with  neither.  I  did  not  hesi- 
tate to  add  some  fresh  remarks  to  those  which  already 
had  doubled  the  bulk  of  the  first  edition  of  my  book  ;  ^ 
but,  in  order  not  to  oblige  the  public  to  read  again  what 
had  been  printed  before,  to  get  at  new  material,  and  to  let 
them  immediately  find  out  what  they  only  desired  to  read, 
I  took  care  to  distinguish  those  second  additions  by  a 
peculiar  mark  ((^)) ;  ^  I  also  thought  it  would  not  be 
useless  to  distinguish  the  first  augmentations  by  another 
and    simpler    mark  (H),  to   show   the   progress   of  my 


1  The  first  edition  of  tVie  "Characters,"  published  in  1688,  contained  420 
characters,  the  fourth  edition  771. 

-  This  mark,  a  ((^))  between  double  parentheses,  as  well  as  the  same  imrk 
between  single  parentheses,  was  first  emplojed  in  the  fifth  edition  (1690)  of 
the  "Characters,"  and  in  all  the  following  ones.  But  the  mere  ^  without 
any  parentheses  was  used  by  La  Bruyere  in  all  editions  to  denote  the 
beginning  of  a  paragraph. 


PREFACE.  V 

"Characters,"  as  well  as  to  guide  the  reader  in  the  choice 
he  might  be  willing  to  make.  And  lest  he  be  afraid  I 
should  never  have  done  with  those  additions,  I  added  to 
all  this  care  a  sincere  promise  to  venture  on  nothing 
more  of  the  kind.  If  any  one  accuses  me  of  breaking 
my  word,  because  I  inserted  in  the  three  last  editions  ^  a 
goodly  number  of  new  remarks,  he  may  perceive  at  least 
that  by  adding  new  ones  to  old,  and  by  completely 
suppressing  those  differences  pointed  out  in  the  margin, 
I  did  not  so  much  endeavour  to  entertain  the  world  with 
novelties,  as  perhaps  to  leave  to  posterity  a  book  of 
morals  more  complete,  more  finished,  and  more  regular. 
To  conclude,  I  did  not  wish  to  write  any  maxims,  for 
they  are  like  moral  laws,  and  I  acknowledge  that  I  pos- 
sess neither  sufficient  authority  nor  genius  for  a  legislator. 
I  also  know  I  have  transgressed  the  ordinary  standard 
of  maxims,  which,  like  oracles,  should  be  short  and  con- 
cise.2  Some  of  my  remarks  are  so,  others  are  more 
diffuse ;  we  do  not  always  think  of  things  in  the  same 
way,  and  we  describe  them  in  as  different  a  manner  by  a 
sentence,  an  argument,  a  metaphor,  or  some  other  figure  ; 
by  a  parallel  or  a  simple  comparison  ;  by  a  story,  by  a 
single  feature,  by  a  description,  or  a  picture  ;  which  is  the 
cause  of  the  length  or  brevity  of  my  reflections.  Finally, 
those  who  write  maxims  would  be  thought  infallible  ;  I, 
on  the  contrary,  allow  any  one  to  say  that  my  remarks 
are  not  always  correct,  provided  he  himself  will  make 
better  ones. 

'  This  refers  to  the  sixth  (1691),  seventh  (1692),  and  eighth  (1694)  editions. 
The  fifth  edition  contained  923  characters,  the  sixth  997,  the  seventh  1073, 
and  the  eighth  1120.  The  ninth  edition  (1696)  was  published  about  a  month 
after  the  death  of  La  Bruyere. 

2  This  seems  to  allude  to  La  Rochefoucauld's  "  Maxims." 


OF  WORKS  OF  THE  MIND. 


( I.)  A  FTER  above  seven  thousand  years,i  during  which 
there  have  been  men  who  have  thought  we 
come  too  late  to  say  anything  that  has  not  been  said 
already,  the  finest  and  most  beautiful  ideas  on  morals 
and  manners  have  been  swept  away  before  our  times, 
and  nothing  is  left  for  us  but  to  glean  after  the  ancients 
and  the  ablest  ^  amongst  the  modems. 

1  M.  de  La  Bruyfere  adopts  the  chronology  of  Suidas,  a  Greek  lexicographer 
who  flourished  during  the  latter  end  of  the  eleventh  century  ;  according  to 
the  Hebrew  chronology  the  world  had  only  existed  5692  years  when  the 
"  Characters  "  were  first  published  in  1688. 

2  Airile  in  the  original,  in  the  sense  of  the  English  word  "able,"  and 
used  as  a  noun,  was  already  then  considered  antiquated. 


O  OF   WORKS   OF   THE   MIND. 

(2.)  We  should  only  endeavour  to  think  and  speak 
correctly  ourselves,  without  wishing  to  bring  others  over 
to  our"  taste  and  opinions  ;i  this  would  be  too  great  an 
undertaking. 

(3.)  To  make  a  book  is  as  much  a  trade  as  to  make 
a  clock  ;  something  more  than  intelligence  is  required  to 
become  an  author.  A  certain  magistrate  was  going  to 
be  raised  by  his  merit  to  the  highest  legal  dignity  ;  he 
was  a  man  of  subtle  mind  and  of  experience,  but  must 
needs  print  a  treatise  of  morality,  which  was  quickly 
bought  up  on  account  of  its  absurdity.^ 

(4.)  It  is  not  so  easy  to  obtain  a  reputation  by  a 
perfect  work  as  to  enhance  the  value  of  an  indifferent 
one  by  a  reputation  already  acquired. 

(5.)  A  satirical  work  or  a  book  of  anecdotes  ^  handed 
about  privately  in  manuscript  from  one  to  another,  passes 
for  a  masterpiece,  even  when  it  is  but  middling  j  the 
printing  ruins  its  reputation. 

(6.)  Take  away  from  most  of  our  works  on  morality 
the  "  Advertisement  to  the  reader,"  the  "  Epistle  dedica- 
tory," the  "  Preface,"  the  "  Table  of  contents,"  and  the 
"  Permission  to  print,"  and  there  will  scarcely  be  pages 
enough  left  to  deserve  the  name  of  a  book. 


1  Sentiment,  in  the  original,  was  during  the  seventeenth  century  not 
seldom  employed  in  French  for  "  opinion,"  as  "  sentiments  "  are  at  present 
in  English.     - 

2  This  magistrate  is  said  to  have  been  Pierre  Poncet  de  la  Riviere, 
Count  d'Ablys  (i6oo-i68i),  a  barrister,  a  councillor  of  state,  and  member  of 
the  royal  council  of  finances,  whose  absurd  moral  treatise,  Considerations 
sur  les  avantages  de  la  vieillesse  dans  la  vie  chretienne,  politique,  civile, 
economiq-ue  et  solitctlre,  was  published  under  the  pseudonym  of  the  Baron 
de  Prelle,  in  the  month  of  August  1677,  about  one  month  before  the  death 
of  the  Lord  Chancellor  d'Aligre,  and  more  than  three  months  before  Presi- 
dent Lamoignon's  decease. 

3  At  that  time  so-called  collections  of  anecdotes,  such  as  BoUana,  Mina- 
giana,  and  Segraisiana,  were  greatly  in  vogue. 


OF   WORKS   OF   THE   MIND.  9 

(7.)  In  certain  things  mediocrity  is  unbearable,  as 
in  poetry,  music,  painting,  and  eloquence.  How  we  are 
tortured  when  we  hear  a  dull  soliloquy  delivered  in  a 
pompous  tone,  or  indifferent  verses  read  with  all  the 
emphasis  of  a  wretched  poet ! 

(8.)  Some  poets  in  their  tragedies  employ  a  goodly 
number  of  big  sounding  verses,  which  seem  strong, 
elevated,  and  filled  with  lofty  sentiments.^  They  are 
listened  to  anxiously,  with  eyes  raised  and  gaping  mouths, 
and  are  thought  to  please  the  public  ;  and  where  they  are 
understood  the  least,  are  admired  the  most ;  people 
have  no  time  to  breathe,  they  have  hardly  time  to  exclaim 
and  to  applaud.  Formerly,  when  I  was  quite  young,  I 
imagined  those  passages  were  clear  and  intelligible  to 
the  actors,  the  pit,  and  the  galleries  ;  that  the  authors 
themselves  understood  them,  and  that  I  must  have  been 
very  dull  not  to  understand  what  it  was  all  about.  But 
now  I  am  undeceived. 

(9.)  Up  to  the  present  time  there  exists  hardly  any 
literary  masterpiece  which  is  the  joint  labour  of  several 
men.2  Homer  wrote  the  Iliad,^  Virgil  the  ^neid,  Livy 
the  Decades,  and  the  Roman  orator  *  his  Orations. 

(10.)  There  is  in  art  an  acme  of  perfection,  as  there 

1  It  is  said  that  the  great  dramatic  poet  Pierre  Comeille  (1606-1684) 
is  alluded  to  as  one  of  those  poets. 

2  All  the  "Keys"  pretend  this  is  a  hit  at  the  "  Dictionary  of  the  Aca- 
demy," and  they  may  be  right;  for  the  Dictionary,  only  published  in  1694, 
six  years  after  the  "Characters"  first  saw  the  light,  had  been  expected  for 
more  than  forty  years.  But  most  likely  La  Bruyere  was  thinking  of  the 
tragedy-ballet  of  PsycM  (1671),  words  by  Pierre  Comeille  and  Moliere, 
music  by  Quinault  and  LuUi ;  of  the  opera  which  in  1680  Racine  and  Boileau, 
joint  historiographes  of  Louis  XIV.,  began,  and  which  never  saw  the  light ; 
and  of  the  newly-acted  Idylle  sur  la  Paix  and  the  Eglogue  de  Versailles 
(1685),  written  by  Quinault,  Racine,  and  Moliere. 

3  Even  in  La  Bruyere's  lifetime  doubts  were  alieady  expressed  about 
the  Iliad  being  written  by  Homer. 

^  This  Roman  orator  was  Cicero. 


lO  OF    WORKS    OF   THE   MIND. 

is  in  Nature  one  of  goodness  and  completeness.  Any 
one  who  feels  this  and  loves  art  possesses  a  perfect  taste  ; 
but  he  who  is  not  sensible  of  it,  and  loves  what  is  below 
or  above  that  point,  is  wanting  in  taste.  Thus  there 
exists  a  good  and  a  bad  taste,  and  we  are  right  in  dis- 
cussing the  difference  between  them. 

(ii.)  Men  have  generally  more  vivacity  than  judg- 
ment ;  or,  to  speak  more  accurately,  few  men  exist  whose 
intelligence  is  combined  with  a  correct  taste  and  a  judi- 
cious criticism. 

(i2.)  The  lives  of  heroes  have  enriched  history,  and 
history  has  adorned  the  actions  of  heroes  ;  and  thus  I 
cannot  say  whether  the  historians  are  more  indebted  to 
those  who  provided  them  with  such  noble  materials,  or 
those  great  men  to  their  historians. 

(13.)  A  heap  of  epithets  is  but  a  sorry  commendation. 
Actions  alone,  and  the  manner  of  relating  them,  speak 
a  man's  praise. 

(14.)  The  whole  genius  of  an  author  consists  in  giving 
accurate  definitions  and  in  painting  well.  Only  Moses,^ 
Homer,  Plato,  Virgil,  Horace,  excel  all  other  writers  in 
their  expressions  and  their  imagery:  to  express  truth  is 
to  write  naturally,  forcibly,  and  delicately. 

(15.)  People  have  been  obliged  to  do  with  style  what 
they  have  done  with  architecture  ;  they  wholly  abandoned 
the  Gothic  style,  which  the  barbarians  introduced  in  their 
palaces  and  temples, ^  and  brought  back  the  Doric,  Ionic, 
and  Corinthian  orders.  That  which  was  only  seen 
amongst  the  ruins  of  ancient  Rome  and  time-honoured 
Greece  has  become  modernised,  and  now  shines  forth  in 
our  porticoes  and  colonnades.      So,  in  writing,   we  can 

1  La  Bruyere  adds  in  a  fcx>tnote  :  "  Even  merely  considered  as  an  author." 

2  Almost  every  one  felt  during  the  seventeenth  century  a  dislike  for 
Gothic  architecture. 


OF   WORKS    OF   THE    MIND.  II 

never  arrive  at  perfection,  and,  if  possible,  surpass  the 
ancients,  but  by  imitating  them. 

How  many  centuries  have  elapsed  before  men  were 
able  to  come  back  to  the  taste  of  the  ancients  in  arts  and 
sciences,  and,  finally,  took  up  again  a  simple  and  natural 
style. 

A  mani  feeds  on  the  ancients  and  intelligent  modems  ; 
he  squeezes  and  drains  them  as  much  as  possible  ;  he 
stuffs  his  works  with  them  ;  and  when  at  last  he  becomes 
an  author  and  thinks  he  can  walk  alone,  he  lifts  up  his 
voice  against  them,  and  ill-treats  them,  like  those  lusty 
children,  grown  strong  through  the  healthy  milk  on 
which  they  have  been  fed,  and  who  beat  their  nurses. 

An  author  of  modem  times  usually  proves  the  ancients 
inferior  to  us  in  two  ways  :  by  reason  and  examples. 
The  reason  is  his  own  opinion,  and  the  examples  are 
his  own  writings.2 

He  confesses  that  the  ancients,  though  they  are  un- 
equal and  incorrect,  have  a  great  many  beautiful  pas- 
sages ;  he  quotes  them,  and  they  are  so  fine,  that  his 
criticism  is  read  only  for  their  sake. 

Some  able  men  declare  in  favour  of  the  ancients 
against  the  modems  ;  but  we  doubt  them,  as  they  seem 
to  be  judges  in  their  ovm.  cause,  for  their  works  are 
so  exactly  written  after  the  model  of  antiquity,  that  we 
cannot  accept  their  authority.^ 

1  Probably  Bernard  le  Bovier  de  Fontenelie  (1657-1757)  is  meant  here. 
This  author  had  made  excellent  classical  studies  in  a  Jesuit  college,  but 
attacked  the  ancients  in  his  Discours  sur  C Eglogue  and  in  his  Digression 
sur  les  anciens  et  les modernesy  published  together  with  \C\%  Poisies  Pastorales 
in  1688.  The  paragraph  beginning  "A  man  feeds  "  and  ending  "nurses" 
was  only  printed  for  the  first  time  in  the  fourth  edition  of  the  "  Characters," 
published  in  1689. 

2  It  is  generally  thought  that  Charles  Perrault  (1628-1703),  a  member  of 
the  French  Academy,  is  alluded  to,  but  this  seems  more  than  doubtful. 

3  Those  "able  men"  were  the  dramatist  Jean  Racine  (1639-1699)  and  the 
satirist  Nicolas  Boileau  Despr^aux  (1636-1711). 


12  OF   WORKS   OF   THE   MIND. 

(1 6.)  We  ought  to  like  to  read  our  works  to  those  who 
know  how  to  correct  and  appreciate  them. 

He  who  will  not  listen  to  any  advice,  nor  be  corrected 
in  his  writings,  is  a  rank  pedant. 

An  author  ought  to  receive  with  the  same  moderation 
all  praises  and  all  criticisms  on  his  productions. 

(17.)  Amongst  all  the  various  expressions  which  can 
render  our  thoughts,  there  is  but  one  which  is  correct. 
We  are  not  always  so  fortunate  as  to  hit  upon  it  in  writing 
or  speaking,  but,  nevertheless,  such  a  one  undoubtedly 
exists,  and  all  others  are  weak,  and  do  not  satisfy  a  man 
of  culture  who  wishes  to  make  himself  understood. 

A  good  author,  who  writes  carefully,  often  finds  that 
the  expression  he  has  been  looking  for  for  some  time, 
and  which  he  did  not  know,  proves,  when  found  at  last,  to 
be  the  most  simple,  the  most  natural,  and  the  one  which 
was  most  likely  to  present  itself  to  him  spontaneously  at 
first. 

Fanciful  authors  often  touch  up  their  works.  As  their 
temper  is  not  always  the  same,  and  as  it  varies  on  every 
occasion,  they  soon  grow  indifferent  about  those  very 
expressions  and  terms  they  liked  so  much  at  first. 

(18.)  The  same  common-sense  which  makes  an  author 
write  good  things,  makes  him  dread  they  are  not  good 
enough  to  deserve  reading. 

A  shallow  mind  thinks  his  writings  divine ;  a  man  of 
sense  imagines  he  writes  tolerably  well. 

(19.)  Aristus  says,  "  I  was  prevailed  upon  to  read  my 
works  to  Zoilus,!  and  I  did  so.  At  first  he  liked  them, 
before  he  had  leisure  to  disapprove  of  them ;  he  com- 
mended them  coldly  in  my  presence,  and  since  then,  has 

1  Zoilus,  a  Greek  grammarian,  flourished  about  356-336  B.C.,  and  assailed 
Homer,  Plato,  Isocrates,  and  other  Greek  authors  with  merciless  severity. 


OF   WORKS   OF   THE   MIND.  13 

not  said  one  word  in  their  favour  to  any  one.  I  excuse 
him,  and  desire  no  more  from  any  author ;  I  even  pity 
him  for  Hstening  to  so  many  fine  things  which  were  not 
his  own." 

Those  men  who  through  their  rank  are  exempt  from 
an  author's  jealousy,  have  either  other  passions  or  ne- 
cessities to  distract  them,  and  to  make  them  indifferent 
towards  other  men's  conceptions.  Almost  no  one, 
whether  through  disposition,  inclination,  or  fortune,  is 
willing  to  relish  the  delight  that  a  perfect  piece  of  work 
can  give. 

(20.)  The  pleasure  of  criticism  takes  away  from  us 
the  pleasure  of  being  deeply  moved  by  very  fine  things. 

(21.)  Many  people  perceive  the  merit  of  a  manuscript 
which  is  read  to  them,  but  will  not  declare  themselves  in 
its  favour  until  they  see  what  success  it  has  in  the  world 
when  printed,  or  what  intelligent  men  will  say  about  it. 
They  do  not  like  to  risk  their  opinion,  and  they  want  to 
be  carried  away  by  the  crowd,  and  dragged  along  by  the 
multitude.  Then  they  say  that  they  were  amongst  the 
first  who  approved  of  that  work,  and  the  general  pubhc 
shares  their  opinion. ^ 

Such  men  lose  the  best  opportunities  of  convincing 
us  that  they  are  intelligent,  clever,  and  first-rate  critics, 
and  can  really  discover  what  is  good  and  what  is 
better.  A  fine  work  falls  into  their  hands  ;  it  is  an 
author's  first  book,  before  he  has  got  any  great  name; 
there  is  nothing  to  prepossess  any  one  in  his  favour,  and 
by  applauding  his  writings  one  does  not  court  or  flatter 

1  Acording  to  all  the  "  Keys,"  this  is  said  to  be  an  allusion  to  the  Abbe 
de  Dangeau  (1643-1723),  a  member  of  the  French  Academy,  and  a  brother 
of  the  better  known  marquis.  But  why  and  wherefore  this  Abbd  has  been 
singled  out,  has  not  reached  posterity.  Some  say  the  President  Cousin,  the 
editor  of  the  Journal  des  Savants,  was  meant. 


14  OF   WORKS    OF   THE    MIND. 

the  great.  Zelotes,!  you  are  not  required  to  cry  out  : 
"  This  is  a  masterpiece  ;  human  intelligence  never  went 
farther ;  the  human  speech  cannot  soar  higher ;  hencefor- 
ward we  will  judge  of  no  one's  taste  but  by  what  he  thinks 
of  this  book."  Such  exaggerated  and  offensive  expressions 
are  only  employed  by  postulants  for  pensions  or  benefices, 
and  are  even  injurious  to  what  is  really  commendable 
and  what  one  wishes  to  praise.  Why  not  merely  say 
— "That's  a  good  book?"  It  is  true  you  say  it  when 
the  whole  of  France  has  approved  of  it,  and  foreigners 
as  well  as  your  own  countrymen,  when  it  is  printed  all 
over  Europe,  and  has  been  translated  into  several  lan- 
guages, but  then  it  is  too  late. 

(22.)  Some  people,  after  having  read  a  book,  quote 
certain  passages  which  they  do  not  thoroughly  under- 
stand, and  moreover  completely  change  their  character 
by  what  they  put  in  of  their  own.  Those  passages,  so 
mutilated  and  disfigured  that  they  are  nothing  else  but 
their  own  expressions  and  thoughts,  they  expose  to 
censure,  maintain  them  to  be  bad,  and  the  world 
agrees  with  them ;  but  the  passage  such  critics  think 
they  quote,  and  in  reality  do  not,  is  not  a  bit  the  worse 
for  it.  2 

(23.)  "What  is  your  opinion  about  Hermodorus' book  ?" 
— "That  it  is  wretchedly  written,"  replies  Anthymus. — 
"  Wretchedly  written  !  what  do  you  mean,  sir  ?" — "Just 
what  I  say,"  he  continues  ;  "  it  is  not  a  book,  at  least  it 
does  not  deserve  to  be  talked  about." — "  Have  you  read 

1  ZijXwr^s  means  "envious." 

2  In  his  Recueil  de  divers  ouvrages  en  prose  et  en  vers,  1676,  Charles 
Perrault  defended  the  Alceste  of  Quinault  and  attacked  the  Alcestis  of 
Euripides.  Unfortunately  his  criticism  contained  several  errors,  which 
Racine  noticed  in  the  preface. of //Ai^f/wzV,  accusing  Perrault  at  the  same 
time  of  having  carelessly  read  the  work  he  was  censuring. 


OF   WORKS   OF  THE   MIND.  15 

it  ?  " — "  No,"  replies  Anthymus.  Why  does  he  not  add 
that  Fulvia  and  Melania  have  condemned  it  without 
reading,  and  that  he  is  a  friend  of  those  two  ladies  ? 

(24.)  Ars^ne,^  from  the  height  of  his  own  wisdom, 
contemplates  men,  and  from  the  eminence  he  beholds 
them  seems  frightened  as  it  were  at  their  littleness. 
Commended,  extolled,  and  raised  to  the  skies  by  certain 
persons  who  have  reciprocally  promised  to  admire  one 
another,  he  fancies,  though  he  has  some  merit,  that  he 
has  as  much  as  any  man  can  have,  which  he  never  will ; 
his  mind  being  occupied  and  filled  with  sublime  ideas, 
he  scarcely  finds  time  to  pronounce  certain  oracles  ; 
raised  by  his  character  above  human  judgments,  he 
leaves  to  vulgar  souls  the  merit  of  leading  a  regular  and 
uniform  life,  being  answerable  for  his  variations  to  none 
but  to  a  circle  of  friends  who  worship  them.  ■  They 
alone  know  how  to  judge,  to  think,  to  write,  and  they 
only  ought  to  write  ;  there  is  no  literary  work,  though 
ever  so  well  received  by  the  world  and  universally  liked 
by  men  of  culture,  which  he  does  approve  of,  nay,  which 
he  would  condescend  to  read ;  he  is  incapable  of  being  cor- 
rected by  this  picture,  which  will  not  even  be  read  by  him. 

(25.)  Theocrines  ^  knows  a  good  many  useless  things  ; 
he  is  singular  in  his  sentiments,  and  less  profound  than 
methodical ;  he  only  exercises  his  memory,  is  absent- 
minded,  scornful,  and  seems  continually  laughing  to  him- 
self at  those  whom  he  thinks  his  inferiors.     By  chance  I 

1  This  was  meant  for  Henri-Joseph  de  Peyre,  Count  de  Troisvilles  (1642- 
1708),  pronounced  Treville,  a  very  intelligent  and  highly-cultivated  noble- 
man, brought  up  in  his  youth  with  Louis  XIV.,  whose  talents  he  rather 
undervalued.  He  was  on  intimate  terms  with  the  Port-Royalists,  and  after 
several  alternate  fits  of  devotion  and  dissipation,  ended  his  days  devoutly 
and  penitently. 

2  The  Abbe  de  Dangeau,  a  pedaniical  purist  mentioned  already,  page  13, 
note. 


l6  OF   WORKS    OF   THE   MIND. 

one  day  read  him  something  of  mine  :  he  heard  it  out, 
and  then  spoke  about  some  of  his  own  writings.  '*  But 
what  said  he  of  yours  ?  "  you'll  ask  me.  "  I  have  told 
you  already  ;  he  spoke  to  me  only  of  his  own." 

(26.)  The  most  accomplished  literary  work  would  be 
reduced  to  nothing  by  carping  criticism,  if  the  author 
would  listen  to  all  critics  and  allow  every  one  to  erase 
the  passage  which  pleases  him  the  least. 

(27.)  Experience  tells  us,  that  if  there  are  ten  persons 
who  would  strike  a  thought  or  an  expression  out  of  a 
book,  we  could  easily  find  a  like  number  who  would 
insist  upon  its  being  put  back  again.  The  latter  will 
exclaim  :  "  Why  should  such  a  thought  be  suppressed  ? 
it  is  new,  fine,  and  wonderfully  well  expressed."  The 
former,  on  the  contrar)',  will  maintain,  "  that  they  would 
have  omitted  such  an  idea,  or  have  expressed  it  in 
another  way."  "  In  your  work,"  say  the  first,  "  there  is 
a  very  happy  phrase  which  depicts  most  naturally  what 
you  meant  to  say."  The  second  maintain  "  that  a  certain 
word  is  venturesome,  and  moreover  does  not  give  the 
precise  meaning  you  perhaps  desired  to  give."  It  is 
about  the  same  thought  and  the  same  word  those  people 
argue  ;  and  yet  they  are  all  critics,  or  pass  for  such. 
What  then  can  an  author  do  but  venture,  in  such  a  per- 
plexity, to  follow  the  advice  of  those  who  approve  of 
the  passage. 

(28.)  A  serious-minded  author  is  not  obliged  to  trouble 
his  head  about  all  the  foolish  sayings,  the  obscene 
remarks,  and  bad  words  that  are  uttered,  or  about  the 
stupid  constructions  which  some  men  put  on  certain 
passages  of  his  writings  ;  much  less  ought  he  to  suppress 
them.  He  is  convinced  that  let  a  man  be  never  so 
careful  in  his   writings,   the  insipid  jokes  of  wretched 


OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND.  17 

buffoons  are  an  unavoidable  evil,  since  they  often  only 
turn  the  best  things  into  ridicule. 

(29.)  If  certain  men  of  quick  and  resolute  mind  are  to 
be  believed,  words  would  even  be  superfluous  to  express 
feelings  ;  signs  would  be  sufficient  to  address  them,  or 
we  could  make  ourselves  be  understood  without  speak- 
ing. However  careful  you  may  be  to  write  closely  and 
concisely,  and  whatever  reputation  you  may  have  as 
such,  they  will  think  you  diffuse.  You  must  allow  them 
to  supply  everything  and  write  for  them  alone.  They 
understand  a  whole  phrase  by  reading  the  first  word, 
and  an  entire  chapter  by  a  single  phrase.  It  is  sufficient 
for  them  to  have  heard  only  a  bit  of  your  work,  they 
know  it  all  and  understand  the  whole.  A  great  many 
riddles  would  be  amusing  reading  to  them  ;  they  regret 
that  the  wretched  style  which  delights  them  becomes 
rare,  and  that  so  few  authors  employ  it.  Comparisons  of 
a  river  flowing  rapidly,  though  calmly  and  uniformly,  or 
of  a  conflagration  which,  fanned  by  the  winds,  spreads 
afar  in  a  forest,  where  it  devours  oaks  and  pine-trees, 
gives  to  them  not  the  smallest  idea  of  eloquence.  Show 
them  some  fireworks  ^  to  astonish  them,  or  a  flash  of 
lightning  to  dazzle  them,  and  they  will  dispense  with 
anything  fine  or  beautiful. 

(30.)  What  a  prodigious  difference  is  there  between  a 
fine  work  and  one  that  is  perfect  or  regular.  I  am  not 
aware  whether  a  single  one  of  the  latter  kind  still  exists. 
It  is  perhaps  less  difficult  for  uncommon  minds  to  hit 
upon  the  grand  and  the  sublime  than  to  avoid  all  kinds 
of  errors.  The  Cid.,  at  its  first  appearance,  was  uni- 
versally admired  ;  it  rose  in  spite  of  power  and  politics, 

'  In  the  seventeenth  century  fireworks  were  in  Frencli  feu  gr^i,eo!i, 
literally  "Greek  fire." 

B 


l8  OF   WORKS   OF   THE   MIND. 

which  attempted  in  vain  to  crush  it.  People  of  rank 
and  the  general  public,  though  always  divided  in  their 
opinions  and  feelings,  were  in  favour  of  it ;  they  learned 
it  by  heart  so  as  to  anticipate  the  actors  who  were 
performing  it.  The  Cid,  in  short,  is  one  of  the  finest 
poems  ever  written,  and  one  of  the  best  criticisms  on 
any  subject  is  that  on  the  Cid?- 

(31.)  When,  after  having  read  a  work,  loftier  thoughts 
arise  in  your  mind  and  noble  and  heartfelt  feelings 
animate  you,  do  not  look  for  any  other  rule  to  judge  it 
by ;  it  is  fine  and  written  in  a  masterly  manner.^ 

(32.)  Capys,^  who  sets  up  for  a  judge  of  style  and 
fancies  he  writes  like  Bouhours  ^  and  Rabutin,^  disagrees 
with  public  opinion,  and  is  the  only  person  who  says 

1  The  Cid,  the  dramatic  masterpiece  of  Pierre  Corneille,  was  first  performed 
in  1636.  Cardinal  Richelieu  tried  to  get  up  a  cabal  to  crush  it,  but  was 
unsuccessful ;  he  also  persuaded  the  Academy  to  publish  a  severe  criticism 
on  it,  which  is  too  favourably  spoken  of  by  La  Bruyere.  Boileau  says  in 
his  ninth  satire  : — 

"  En  vain  contre  le  Cid  un  ministre  se  ligue. 
Tout  Paris  pour  Chimere  a  les  yeux  de  Rodrigue. 
L'Academie  en  corps  a  beau  le  censurer, 
Le  public  revoke  s'obstine  a  I'admirer."  ,' 

2  Couragfux  and  courage  were  not  seldom  used  in  the  seventeenth  century 
for  "  heartielt  "  and  "heart,"  whilst  main  iTouvrier,  "hand  of  a  workman," 
was  sometimes  employed  instead  of  main  de  niaitre,  "  hand  of  a  master." 

3  The  dramatist  Edme  Boursaiilt  (1638-1 701)  had  had  a  literary  quarrel 
with  Boileau,  who  attacked  him  in  his  ninth  Satire,  to  which  Boursault 
replied  by  his  comedy  Xa  Satire des  Satires.  But  they  had  been  reconciled 
more  than  a  year  before  the  "Characters"  were  published. 

*  Father  Bouhours  (1628-1702),  a  literary  Jesuit  of  some  reputation  and 
talent,  published  in  1689  ^^^^  Pensces  ingenieuses  des  anciens  etdes  modernes, 
in  which  he  several  times  praised  the  "Characters."  La  Bruyere,  not  to  be 
behind-hand,  inserted  the  learned  father's  name  in  his  fifth  edition,  published 
in  1690. 

*  Roger  de  Rabutin,  Count  de  Bussy  (1618-1693),  a  friend  of  our  author,  en- 
joyed a  certain  literary  reputation  in  the  seventeenth  century,  now  completely 
lost.  He  is  only  remembered  by  his  licentious  and  satirical  Histoire  amour- 
euse  des  Gaules,  for  which  he  was  banished  from  the  court  for  more  than 
twenty  years. 


OF   WORKS    OF    THE    MIND.  19 

that  Damis  ^  is  not  a  good  author.  Damis  is  of  the  same 
opinion  as  a  large  number  of  people,  and  says  artlessly, 
as  well  as  the  public,  that  Capys  is  a  dull  writer. 

(33.)  It  is  the  business  of  a  newsmonger  to  inform  us 
when  any  book  is  published  ;  if  it  is  printed  by  Cramoisy,^ 
and  with  what  type  ;  if  it  is  well  bound,  and  on  what 
paper,  and  at  what  price  it  is  sold ;  he  ought  even  to 
know  what  the  bookseller's  sign  is  ;  but  it  is  foolish  in 
him  to  pretend  to  criticise  it. 

The  highest  point  a  newsmonger  can  reach  is  to  reason 
in  a  vague  manner  on  politics. 

A  newsmonger  lies  down  at  night  quietly,  after  having 
received  some  information,  but  it  is  spoiled  overnight, 
and  he  is  obliged  to  throw  it  away  when  he  wakes  in 
the  morning.  3 

(34.)  A  philosopher*  wastes  his  life  in  observing  men, 
and  wears  himself  out  in  exposing  vice  and  folly.  If  he 
shapes  his  thoughts  into  words,  it  is  not  so  much  from 
his  vanity  as  an  author  as  to  place  entirely  in  its  proper 
light  some  truth  he  has  discovered,  that  it  may  make  the 
desired  impression.  Yet  some  readers  think  they  repay 
him  with  interest  if  they  say,  with  a  magisterial  air,  "  that 
they  have  read  his  book,  and  that  there  is  some  sense  in 

1  Damis  was  meant  for  Boileau. 

2  There  had  been  a  whole  family  of  printers  of  that  name,  though  only 
Andr^  was  alive  when  the  "Characters  "  appeared.  At  that  time  books  in 
France  and  in  England  were  almost  always  sold  bound. 

3  By  "newsmonger  "our  author  alludes  to  the  manufacturers  of  manuscript 
newspapers,  containing  all  kin. is  of  social  and  political  scandal,  eagerly 
sought  for,  and  who  were  severely  punished  when  caught.  The  English 
translator  of  1702  gives  for  nouvelHste  "journalist,"  and  says  in  his  "  Key  :  " 
"  The  author  of  the  Works  of  the  Learned  of  Paris,"  etc.  The  Hisioire  des 
Savants,  edited  by  H.  Basnage  (1656-1710),  was  published  in  Holland. 
Mr.  N.  Rowe,  in  his  translation  published  in  1713,  also  uses  the  word  "jour- 
nalist," and  says  in  the  "  Key  :  "  "  On  the  authors  of  Journa's,  or  accounts 
of  books  and  News,  published  in  France,  Holland,"  etc. 

^  \a  Bruyire  speaks  here  of  himself. 


20  OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND. 

it  ; "  but  he  does  not  mind  their  praise,  for  he  has  not 
laboured  and  passed  many  sleepless  nights  to  obtain  it : 
he  has  higher  aims,  and  acts  from  nobler  motives  :  he 
demands  from  mankind  greater  and  more  uncommon 
results  than  empty  praise,  and  even  than  rewards  ;  he 
expects  them  to  lead  better  lives. 

(35.)  A  fool  reads  a  book  and  does  not  understand  it; 
a  man  of  ordinary  mind  reads  it  and  fancies  he  perfectly 
understands  it ;  a  man  of  intelligence  sometimes  does 
not  wholly  understand  it ;  he  perceives  what  is  really 
obscure  and  what  is  really  clear,  whilst  witlings  ^  imagine 
those  passages  obscure  which  are  not  so,  and  think  they 
do  not  understand  what  is  really  intelligible. 

(36.)  In  vain  an  author  endeavours  to  obtain  admira- 
tion by  his  works.  A  fool  may  sometimes  admire  him, 
but  then  he  is  only  a  fool ;  an  intelligent  man  has  within 
him  the  germs  of  all  truth  and  of  all  sentiments  ;  nothing 
is  new  to  him  ;  he  admires  few  things,  but  he  finds  that 
many  things  deserve  some  praise. 

(37.)  I  question  if  it  be  possible  to  write  more  clever 
letters  in  a  more  agreeable  manner  and  in  a  better  style 
than  those  of  Balzac  2  or  Voiture  ;  ^  but  they  are  void  of 
those  sentiments  which  have  swayed  us  since  their  time 
and  originated  with  the  ladies.      That  sex  excels  ours 

1  In  the  seventeenth  century,  bel  esprit,  plural  beaux  esprits,  in  the 
original,  meaiit  a  man  of  inte  ligence,  but  began  already  in  La  Bruyere's 
time  to  have  the  meaning  of  "  witling." 

2  Jean  Guez  de  Balzac  (1594-1655),  one  of  the  first  members  of  the  French 
Academy,  wrote,  besides  his  over-praised  "  Letters,"  a  Socrate  Chretien,  the 
Prince,  a  panegyric  on  Louis  XIII.,  and  Entrettetis  ou  Dissertations  lit- 
ieraires. 

3  Voiture  (1598-1648),  also  a  member  of  the  French  Academy,  is  chiefly 
known  by  his  "Letters"  and  some  namby-pamby  poetry,  amongst  which  is  ihe 
well-known  sonnet  on  "Uranie,"  which  was  by  many  preferred  to  the  sonnet 
on  "  Job  "  by  Benserade,  and  gave  rise  to  a  pretty  literary  quarrel  in  the  seven- 
teenth century.     Voiture  and  Balzac  are  now  deservedly  buried  in  oblivion. 


OF   WORKS    OF   THE   MIND.  21 

in  this  kind  of  writing ;  from  their  pens  flow  naturally 
those  turns  and  expressions  which  often  are  with  us  the 
effects  of  tedious  labour  and  troublesome  research ; 
they  are  fortunate  in  the  selection  of  their  wordings, 
which  they  employ  so  cleverly,  that  though  they  are  not 
new,  they  have  all  the  charm  of  novelty,  and  seem  only 
designed  for  the  use  they  put  them  to ;  they  alone  can 
express  an  entire  sentiment  in  a  single  word,  and  render 
a  delicate  thought  as  delicately  ;  their  arguments  are 
connected  in  an  inimitable  manner,  follow  one  another 
naturally,  and  are  only  linked  together  by  the  sense.  If 
the  ladies  wrote  always  correctly,  I  might  affirm  that  per- 
haps the  letters  of  some  of  them  would  be  among  the 
best  in  our  language,  i 

(38.)  Terentius  2  wanted  nothing  but  to  be  less  cold. 
What  purity  !  what  preciseness  !  what  polish  !  what  ele- 
gance !  what  characters  !  Moliere  wanted  nothing  but 
to  avoid  the  vulgar  tongue  and  barbarisms  and  to  write 
elegantly. 3  What  fire  !  what  artlessness  !  what  original 
and  good  jokes  !  how  well  he  imitates  manners  !  what 
imagery !  and  how  he  lashes  what  is  ridiculous  !  But 
what  an  author  might  have  been  formed  of  these  two 
comic  writers  ! 

(39.)  I  have  read  Malherbe  and  Th^ophile.*  They 
both  understood  nature,  with  this  difference  :  the  first, 

1  The  letters  of  Mad.-ime  de  Sevigne  (1626-1696)  were  not  published  until 
1726,  or  thirty  years  after  La  Bruyere's  death,  though  perhaps  he  might  have 
seen  some  of  them  in  manuscript.  Among  the  ladies  celebrated  for  their  epis- 
tolary style  in  the  seventeenth  century  were  Madame  de  Maintenon, 
Mademoiselle  de  Scud^ry,  Madame  de  Bussy-Lamelh,  and  above  all  Ma- 
dame de  Boislandry.    See  the  Chapter  "  Of  Opinions,"  §  28,  "  A  Fragment." 

2  Publius  Terentius  Afer  (194-158  B.C.),  a  celebrated  Latin  comic  dramatist. 

3  Some  commentators  on  La  Bruyere  think  that  the  words  "  vulgar  tongue 
{jargon)  and  barbarisms "  refer  to  Molifere  having  put  peasants  on  the 
stage,  and  letting  them  speak  their  dialect.     See  §  52. 

♦  Malherbe  (1555-1628)  was  one   of  the   greatest   purists  amongst   the 


22  OF    WORKS   OF    THE    MIND. 

in  a  nervous  and  uniform  style,  displays  at  one  and  the 
same  time  whatever  is  beautiful,  noble,  ingenuous  and 
simple,  and  depicts  or  describes  it ;  the  other,  without 
choice  or  accuracy,  with  a  loose  and  uneven  pen,  some 
times  overloads  his  descriptions,  goes  into  too  many 
details,  and  analyses  too  much  ;  sometimes  he  imagines 
certain  things, ^  exaggerates,  outstrips  what  is  true  in 
nature,  and  becomes  a  romancer. 

(40.)  In  both  Ronsard  2  and  Balzac,  each  in  their  kind, 
are  found  a  sufficient  number  of  good  and  bad  things  to 
form  after  them  very  great  men  either  in  verse  or  prose. 

(41.)  Marot,^  by  his  phraseology  and  style,  seems  to 
have  written  after  Ronsard  wrote  ;  there  is  very  little 
difference,  except  in  a  few  words,  between  the  style  of 
the  former  and  our  present  style. 

(42.)  Ronsard  and  his  contemporaries  have  done  more 
harm  than  good  to  style ;  they  delayed  its  progress 
towards  perfection,  and  exposed  it  to  the  danger  of 
being  always  defective  and  of  never  becoming  per- 
fect again.  It  is  astonishing  that  Marot's  works,  which 
are  so  natural  and  easy,  have  not  made  of  Ronsard, 
so  full  of  rapture  and  enthusiasm,  a  greater  poet  than 
he  or  Marot  ever  were  ;  and  that,  on  the  contrary,  Bel- 
leau,  Jodelle,  and  du  Bartas  *  were  soon  followed  by  a 

authors  of  his  time.  Theophile  de  Viau  (1591-1626),  a  writer  of  tragedies 
and  a  poet,  was  by  some  of  his  contemporaries  though  t  to  be  a  rival  of  Malherbe. 

1  In  the  original  il feint,  the  Latin _/?«^V,  he  shapes,  imagines. 

2  Ronsard  (1524-1585),  the  chief  of  the  "Pleiad"  or  constellation  of  seven 
authors,  was  the  most  celebrated  poet  of  his  time,  and  the  author  of  the 
Franciade. 

3  Clement  Marot  (1495-1544),  the  favourite  poet  of  Francis  I.,  was  born 
twenty-nine  years  before  Ronsard,  who  lived  about  forty  years  longer  than 
Marot. 

*  Remy  Belleau  (1528-1577),  Jodelle  (1532-1573),  and  du  Bartas  (1544- 
1 590),  were  all  poets  of  the  school  of  Ronsard  and  belonging  to  the  ' '  Pleiad. " 
Du  Bartas's  chief  work  has  been  translated  into  English  by  "silver-tongued  " 


MICHEL  DE    MONTAIGNE 


OF   WORKS   OF   THE   MIND.  2$ 

Racan  ^  and  a  Malherbe,  and  that  the  French  language 
was  no  sooner  vitiated  than  it  recovered. 

(43.)  Marot  and  Rabelais  2  are  inexcusable  for  scat- 
tering so  much  filth  in  their  writings :  they  both  had  genius 
and  originality  enough  to  be  able  to  do  without  it,  even 
for  those  who  seek  rather  what  is  comical  than  what  is 
admirable  in  an  author.  Rabelais  above  all  is  incom- 
prehensible :  his  book  is  a  mystery,  a  mere  chimera ;  it 
has  a  lovely  woman's  face,  with  the  feet  and  tail  of  a  ser- 
pent or  of  some  more  hideous  animal ;  it  is  a  monstrous 
jumble  of  delicate  and  ingenious  morality  and  of  filthy 
depravation.  Where  it  is  bad,  it  excels  by  far  the  worst, 
and  is  fit  only  to  delight  the  rabble  ;  and  where  it  is  good, 
it  is  exquisite  and  excellent,  and  may  entertain  the  most 
delicate. 

(44.)  Two  writers  have  condemned  Montaigne  ^  in 
their  works.  I  am  of  their  opinion,  and  believe  him  not 
always  free  from  blame  ;  but  it  seems  that  none  of  these 
two  can  see  anything  good  in  him.  One  of  these  thinks 
too  little  to  enjoy  an  author  who  thinks  a  great  deal ;  the 
other  thinks  with  too  much  subtlety  to  be  pleased  with 
thoughts  that  are  natural.* 

Joshua  Sylvester  (1563-1618),  under  the  title  of  "The  Divine  Week  and 
Works;"  and  Spenser  speaks  of  "his  heavenly  muse,"  and  of  his  filling 
"the  world  with  never-dying  fame." 

1  Hoiiorat  de  Bueil,  Marquis  de  Racan  (1589-1670),  the  favourite  pupil  of 
Malherbe,  is  chiefly  known  by  his  pastoral  dialogue,  Les  Bergeries.  La 
Bruyere  praises  Malherbe  and  Racan  for  their  pure  style,  but  the  fabulist 
Jean  la  FoAtaine  says  of  them  : — 

"  Malherbe  avec  Racan  parmi  le  chceur  des  anges, 
Lk-haut  de  I'Eternel  celebrant  les  lou^nges 
Out  eiiiporte  leur  lyre." 

2  Francois  Rabelais  (1459-1553),  author  of  the  Chroniques  de  Gargantua 
et  de  Pantagruel- 

2  La  Bruyfere  writes  "  Montague,"  and  so  it  is  even  now  pronounced. 
Montaigne's  (1533-1592)  "  Essays  "  are  known  everywhere. 
*  The  author  who  "thinks  too  little"  is  said  to  have   been   the  Port- 


24  OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND. 

(45.)  A  grave,  solemn,  and  correct  style  will  go  a  long 
way.  Amyot  and  Coeffeteau  ^  are  read,  but  who  else  of 
their  contemporaries  ?  The  phraseology  and  the  expres- 
sion of  Balzac  have  become  less  antiquated  than  those 
of  Voiture ;  but  if  the  style,  the  intelligence,  and  originality 
of  the  latter  are  not  modern  nor  in  anything  resemble  our 
present  writers,  it  is  because  it  is  easier  not  to  pay  any 
attention  to  him  than  to  imitate  him,  and  because  the 
few  who  follow  him  could  never  overtake  him. 

(46.)  The  H  .  .  .  G  ...  2  is  distinctly  less  than  no- 
thing, and  there  are  a  good  many  works  like  it.  There  is 
as  much  trickery  required  to  grow  rich  by  a  stupid  book 
as  there  is  folly  in  buying  it ;  a  man  would  never  know 
the  people's  taste  if  he  did  not  venture  sometimes  on 
some  great  piece  of  silliness. 

(47.)  We  perceive  that  an  opera  is  an  outline  of  a 
magnificent  spectacle,  of  which  it  serves  to  give  an  idea. 

I  cannot  understand  how  the  opera,  with  such  perfect 
music  and  quite  a  regal  expenditure,  has  been  able  to 
tire  me.^ 

There  are  some  passages  in  an  opera  which  make  us 
long  for  others  ;  it  sometimes  happens  we  wish  it  was 

Royalist,  Pierre  NicoIe(i625-i695),  though  some  imagine  Balzac  was  meant ; 
the  author  who  thought  "with  too  much  subtlety  "  seems  to  have  been  Father 
Malebranche  (1638-1715),  who  attacked  Montaigne  in  \\\s,  Recherche  de  la 
Virite  {\(>Ti). 

1  Jacques  Amyot  (1513-1593),  the  translator  of  Plutarch.  Nicolas  Coeffe- 
teau (1574-1623),  bishop  of  Marseille,  is  best  known  by  his  translation  of  the 
Roman  historian,  Floras. 

2  The  letters  H.  G.  stand  for  Herjnes  Galatii,  "  Hermes  "  being  the 
Greek  for  Mercury,  and  there  existing  since  1672  a  kind  of  monthly  review, 
called  the  Mercnre  Galant,  edited  by  Donneau  de  Vis^,  Tnomas  Corneille, 
and  Fontenelle,  and  printing  some  news  from  the  court  and  the  army,  a  few 
literary  art  cles,  and  as  many  advertisements  as  possible.  Since  1677  its 
title  changed  to  Mercure  de  France. 

3  Boileau,  La  Fontaine,  and  Saint  Evremond  were,  like  La  Bruyere,  no 
lov=rs  of  the  opera. 


OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND.  25 

all  over  :  this  is  the  fault  of  the  decorations,  or  of  a  want 
of  action  or  interest. 

An  opera  is  not  even  to  this  day  a  poem,  for  it  contains 
nought  but  verses  ;  nor  is  it  a  spectacle,  since  machinery 
has  disappeared  through  the  dexterous  management  of 
Amphion  and  his  kindred  ;  ^  it  is  a  concert  of  voices 
assisted  by  instruments.  We  deceive  ourselves  and 
acquire  a  bad  taste  when  we  state,  as  has  been  done,  that 
machinery  is  only  an  amusement  fit  for  children  and 
suitable  for  puppet-shows."^  Machines  increase  and  em- 
bellish poetical  fiction  and  maintain  among  the  spectators 
that  gentle  illusion  in  which  the  entire  pleasure  of  a 
theatre  consists,  to  which  it  also  adds  a  feeling  of  wonder. 
There  is  no  need  of  flights,  or  cars,  or  changes  when 
BMnice  or  Phielope  ^  are  represented,  but  they  are  neces- 
sary in  an  opera,  as  the  characteristic  of  such  a  spectacle 
is  to  enchant  the  mind  as  well  as  the  ear  and  the  eye. 

(48.)  Some  busybodies  ^  have  erected  a  theatre  and 
machiner)',  composed  ballets,  verses,  and  music  ;  theirs 
is  the  whole  spectacle,  even  to  the  room  where  the  per- 
formance was  held,  from  the  roof  to  the  ver>'  foundation       __    y-'^^ 
of  the  four  walls.      Who  has  any  doubt  that  the  hunt  on 

r 

1  The  Abbe  Perrin  and  his  brother-in-law,  the  Marquis  de  Sourdeac,  the 
first  regular  directors  of  opera  in  France,  ruined  themselves  in  less  than  three 
years  through  their  expensive  decorations  and  machinery.  In  1672  Lulli 
and  his  son-in-law  Francine  obtained  permission  to  manage  another  opera- 
house,  but  spent  far  less  money  on  decorations  than  their  predecessors  had 
done.  Our  author  calls  Lulli  "Amphion,"  a  Greek  musician  who  is  said 
to  have  built  Thebes  by  the  music  of  his  lute. 

-  At  that  time  there  was  a  regular  theatre  for  puppet-shows,  founded  by 
Pierre  d'Attelin,  better  l<iiown  as  Brioche. 

3  In  1670  Corneille  and  Racine  had  each  a  tragedy,  Bir^nice,  represented ; 
I'endope,  a  tragedy  of  the  Abbe  Genest,  was  played  in  1684. 

*  One  of  those  busybodies  is  said  to  have  been  a  certain  M.  Manse, 
engineer  of  the  waterworks  of  Chantilly,  the  seat  of  the  Condes  ;  and  he 
pretended  to  have  chiefly  organised  the  festival  give:i  by  the  Prince  de 
Conde,  a  son  of  the  great  Conde,  and  the  father  of  La  Bruyere's  pupil,  the 


fe^ 


26  OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND. 

the  water,!  the  delights  of  "La  Table,"  2  the  marvels  of 
the  Labyrinth  3  were  also  invented  by  them  ?  I  think  so, 
at  least,  by  the  agitation  they  are  in  and  by  the  self- 
satisfied  air  with  which  they  applaud  their  success. 
Unless  I  am  deceived,  they  have  not  contributed  any- 
thing to  a  festival  so  splendid,  so  magnificent,  and  so 
long  kept  up,  and  which  one  person  planned  and  paid 
for  ;  so  that  I  admire  two  things  :  the  ease  and  quietness 
of  him  who  directed  everything,  and  the  fuss  and  gesti- 
culations of  those  who  did  nothing.* 

(49.)  The  critics,  or  those  who,  thinking  themselves  so, 
decide  deliberately  and  decisively  about  all  public  repre- 
sentations, group  and  divide  themselves  into  different 
parties,  each  of  whom  admires  a  certain  poem  or  a  cer- 
tain music  and  damns  all  others,  urged  on  by  a  wholly 
different  motive  than  public  interest  or  justice.  The 
ardour  with  which  they  defend  their  prejudices  damages 
the  opposite  party  as  well  as  their  own  set.  These 
men  discourage  poets  and  musicians  by  a  thousand  con- 
tradictions, and  delay  the  progress  of  arts  and  sciences, 


Duke  de  Bourbon,  to  the  Dauphin,  the  son  of  Louis  XIV.,  at  Chantilly 
during  the  month  of  August  1688.  This  entertainment  lasted  eight  days  ; 
hence  the  necessity  of  a  theatre. 

1  The  "hunt  on  the  water"  took  place  on  the  sixth  day  of  the  festival, 
when  some  living  deer  and  other  animals  were  thrown  alive  into  a  large  lake, 
which  the  ladies,  in  boats,  tried  to  catch  by  means  of  ropes,  and  which, 
when  caught,  were  set  at  liberty. 

2  On  the  first  day  of  the  feast  a  splendid  "  collation  "  was  given  by  the 
Prince  to  the  Dauphin,  at  the  cross-way  of  "  La  Table,"  amidst  a  temple  of 
verdure  erected  for  the  occasion.  Any  meal  taken  between  the  dinner  and 
supper  hours,  or  any  festive  repast,  was  called  in  Louis  XI  V.'s  time  a  collaiion. 

3  "  Another  wonderful  collation  given  in  the  Labyrinth  of  Chantilly,"  says 
a  note  of  La  Bruyere.  An  engraving  still  exists  of  the  table,  its  decorations 
and  ornaments. 

♦  This  compliment  to  the  Prince  de  Condrf  only  appeared  for  the  first  time 
in  the  fourth  edition  of  the  "  Characters, "  published  in  i58g,  when  the  whole 
court  was  still  talking  about  the  entertainment. 


OF    WORKS    OF    THE    MIND.  27 

by  depriving  them  of  the  advantages  to  be  obtained  by 
that  emulation  and  freedom  which  many  excellent  mas- 
ters, each  in  their  own  way  and  according  to  their  own 
genius,  might  display  in  the  execution  of  some  very  fine 
works.  1 

(50.)  What  is  the  reason  that  we  laugh  so  freely  in  a 
theatre  but  are  ashamed  to  weep  ?  Is  it  less  natural  to  be 
melted  by  what  excites  pity  than  to  bur§t  into  laughter  at 
what  is  comical  ?  Is  it  the  alteration  of  our  features  that 
checks  us  ?  It  is  more  visible  in  immoderate  laughter  than 
in  the  most  passionate  grief;  and  we  avert  our  faces  when 
we  laugh  or  weep  in  the  presence  of  people  of  rank,  or  of 
all  those  whom  we  respect.  Is  it  because  we  are  reluc- 
tant to  let  it  be  seen  we  are  tender-hearted,  or  to  show 
any  emotion,  especially  at  an  imaginary  subject,  and  by 
which  it  seems  we  are  imposed  upon  ?  But  without 
quoting  those  austere  men,  or  those  who  do  not  care  for 
the  opinions  of  the  world,^  who  think  that  excessive 
laughter  or  tears  betray  weakness,  and  who  forbid  both, 
what  is  it  that  we  look  for  in  tragedy  ?  Is  it  to  laugh  ? 
Is  truth  not  depicted  there  as  vividly  as  in  comedy  ? 
And  have  we  not  to  feel  that  those  things  are  realities  in 
either  case  before  we  are  moved  ?  Or  is  it  so  easily  to 
be  pleased,  and  is  no  verisimilitude  needed  ?  It  is  not 
thought  odd  to  hear  a  whole  theatre  ring  with  laughter 
at  some  passage  of  a  comedy,  but,  on  the  contrary,  it 
implies  that  it  was  funny,  and  very  naturally  performed  ; 
therefore  the  extreme  restraint  every  one  puts  on  himself 
not  to  shed  tears  and  the  affected  laughter  with  which 


1  This  is  said  to  be  a  hit  at  the  partisans  of  Quinault,  who  could  see  no 
charms  in  anything  except  in  his  operas. 

2  In  the  original,  esprit  fort,  which  sometimes  meant  "a  man  who  does  not 
care  for  the  opinions  of  the  world,"  and  sometimes  "a  freethinker." 


28  OF   WORKS   OF   THE    MIND. 

one  tries  to  disguise  them,  clearly  prove  that  the  natural 
result  of  lofty  tragedy  should  be  to  make  us  all  weep 
without  concealment  and  publicly,  and  without  any  other 
hindrance  than  wiping  our  eyes  ;  moreover,  after  we  have 
agreed  to  indulge  in  our  passion,  it  will  be  found  there  is 
often  less  room  to  fear  we  should  weep  in  a  theatre  than 
that  we  should  be  tired  out  there. 

(51.)  Tragedy,  from  its  very  beginning,  oppresses  the 
spectator's  feelings,  and,  whilst  being  acted,  scarcely 
allows  him  liberty  to  breathe  and  leisure  to  recover,  or 
if  it  leaves  him  some  respite,  it  is  only  to  be  plunged  again 
into  fresh  abysses  and  new  alarms.  Through  pity  he  is 
led  to  terror,  or  reciprocally  through  terror  to  pity ;  it 
leads  him  through  tears,  sobs,  uncertainty,  expectation, 
fear,  surprises  and  horror  to  a  catastrophe.  It  should 
not,  therefore,  be  a  collection  of  pretty  sentiments,  tender 
declarations,  gallant  conversations,  agreeable  pictures, 
soft  words,  or  something  comical  enough  to  produce 
laughter,  followed,  in  truth,  by  a  final  scene  in  which 
the  "  mutineers  "  do  not  hsten  to  reason,^  and  in  which 
for  decency's  sake  there  is  at  last  some  blood  spilled, 
and  some  unfortunate  man's  life  taken. 2 

(52.)  It  is  not  sufficient  for  the  manners  of  the  stage 
not  to  be  bad  ;  they  should  be  decent  and  instructive. 
Some  comical  subjects  are  so  low,  so  mean,  or  even  so 
dull  and  so  insignificant,  that  a  poet  should  not  be  per- 
mitted to  write  about  them,  nor  could  an  audience  by 


1  La  Bruyere  puts  in  a  note  :  "  A  rebellion  was  the  ordinary  ending  of 
tragedies." 

2  Some  commentators  think  this  is  an  allusion  to  the  tragedies  of  Quinault, 
but  they  were  already  buried  in  oblivion  when  he  died  in  1688  :  it  seems 
rather  to  refer  to  ihose  of  Jean  Galbert  de  Campistron  (1656-1713),  who, 
during  ten  years,  from  1683  to  1693,  produced  almost  yearly  a  tragedy, 
none  of  which  have  come  down  to  posterity. 


OF   WORKS   OF   THE   MIND.  29 

any  possibility  be  diverted  by  them.  A  peasant  or  an 
intoxicated  man  may  furnish  some  scenes  for  a  farce 
writer ;  but  they  can  scarcely  be  personages  of  true 
comedy ;  for  how  can  they  be  the  basis  of  the  main 
action  of  a  comedy  ?  Perhaps  it  may  be  said  that  "  such 
characters  are  natural."  Then,  according  to  a  similar 
rule,  the  attention  of  an  entire  audience  may  be  occupied 
by  a  lackey  whistling,  or  a  sick  person  on  his  bed-chair, 
or  by  a  drunken  man  snoring  and  being  sick ;  for  can 
anything  be  more  natural  ?  1  An  effeminate  dandy  rises 
late,  spends  part  of  the  day  at  his  toilet,  looks  at  him- 
self in  the  glass,  perfumes  himself,  puts  patches  on  his 
face,  receives  his  letters  and  answers  them.  But  such 
a  character  brought  on  the  stage,  made  to  stop  for  any 
length  of  time,  during  one  or  two  acts,  and  depicted  as 
natural  and  as  like  the  original  as  possible,  will  be  as 
dull  and  as  tedious  as  it  well  can  be.^ 

(53.)  Plays  and  novels,  in  my  opinion,  may  be  made 
as  useful  as  they  are  pernicious.  They  exhibit  so  many 
grand  examples  of  constancy,  virtue,  tenderness  and  dis- 
interestedness ;  so  many  fine  and  perfect  characters,  that 
when  young  people  cast  their  eyes  on  what  they  see 
around  them  and  find  nothing  but  unworthy  objects,  very 
much  inferior  to  those  they  just  admired,  it  is  not  to  be 
wondered  at  that  they  cannot  have  the  least  inclination 
for  them, 

1  Mol. fere  often  put  peasants  on  the  stage;  but  he  never  made  of  them, 
nor  of  intoxicated  persons,  his  principal  characters:  the  "sick  person"  is 
said  to  be  a  hit  at  Argan  in  Moliere's  Le  Malade  imaginaire.  See  also 
page  21,  §  38. 

2  This  is  an  allusion  to  the  actor  Baron's  L' Homme  a  bonnes  fortunes 
(1686)  and  the  Dibauchi  (1690)  ;  this  latter  comedy,  acted  before  the  court 
the  very  year  the  above  paragraph  first  appeared,  was  a  complete  failure,  and 
has  never  been  printed.  Intoxicated  people  were  often  represented  on  the 
stage  in  La  Bruyere's  time. 


30  OF   WORKS    OF   THE    MIND. 

(54.)  Corneille  cannot  be  equalled  where  he  is  excel- 
lent ;  he  shows  then  original  and  inimitable  characteristics, 
but  he  is  unequal.  His  first  plays  1  are  uninteresting  and 
heavy,  and  did  not  lead  us  to  expect  that  he  would  after- 
wards soar  to  such  a  height,  just  as  his  last  plays  make 
us  wonder  at  his  fall  from  such  a  pinnacle.  In  some  of 
his  best  pieces  there  are  unpardonable  errors  in  the 
characters  of  the  drama  ^ — a  declamatory  style  which 
arrests  the  action  and  delays  it,  and  such  negligence  in  his 
versification  and  in  his  expressions  that  we  can  hardly 
understand  how  so  great  a  man  could  be  guilty  of  them. 
His  highest  individual  quality  is  his  sublime  genius,  to 
which  he  is  beholden  for  some  of  the  most  beautiful 
verses  ever  read  ;  for  the  plots  of  his  plays,  in  which  he 
sometimes  ventures  to  transgress  the  rules  of  the  ancients ; 
and  finally,  for  his  catastrophes.  In  this  he  does  not 
always  follow  the  taste  of  the  Greeks  and  their  grand 
simplicity ;  on  the  contrary,  he  delights  in  crowding  the 
stage  with  events,  which  he  almost  always  disentangles 
successfully  ;  and  is  above  all  to  be  admired  for  his  great 
variety  and  the  little  similarity  of  his  plots  in  the  large 
number  of  dramas  he  has  written.  It  seems  that  Racine's 
plays  are  more  like  one  another,  and  that  they  lead  up  a 
little  more  to  the  same  ending  ;  but  he  is  uniform,  lofty  in 
style,  and  everywhere  the  same,  as  well  in  the  plots  and 
incidents  of  his  plays,  which  are  sound,  regular,  rational 
and  natural,  as  in  his  versification,  which  is  correct,  rich 
in  its  rhythm,  elegant,  melodious,*^  and  harmonious.  He 
is  an  exact  imitator  of  the  ancients,  whom  he  carefully 

1  In  the  original  comedies,  a  word  employed  for  tragedies  as  well  as  for 
comedies. 

2  Cinna  in  the  tragedy  of  that  name,  Felix  in  Polyeucie,  and  Rodogune  in 
Rodogitne  are  examples  of  this. 

3  The  original  has  nombreux,  the  Latin  nunterosus. 


OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND.  3 1 

follows  in  their  distinctness  and  simplicity  of  action,  and 
like  Corneille,  not  lacking  the  sublime  and  marvellous, 
the  moving  and  the  pathetic.  Where  can  we  find  greater 
tenderness  diffused  than  in  Le  Cid,  Polyeucte,  and  Les 
Horaces  ?  1  What  grandeur  do  we  not  observe  in  Mithri- 
dates.  Torus,  and  Burrhus  I^  Both  poets  were  well  ac- 
quainted with  terror  and  pity,  those  favourite  passions 
of  the  ancients,  which  the  dramatic  authors  were  fond  of 
producing  on  the  stage  ;  as  Orestes  in  the  Andromaque 
of  Racine,  Phldre  of  the  same  author,  as  well  as  CEdipus 
and  the  Horatii  of  Corneille  clearly  prove.  If,  however, 
it  is  allowable  to  draw  some  comparison  between  them, 
and  distinguish  what  are  the  peculiarities  of  each  of  them, 
as  is  generally  discovered  in  their  writings,  I  should  pro- 
bably say  :  Corneille  enthralls  us  by  his  characters  and 
ideas  ;  Racine's  coincide  with  ours  ;  the  one  represents 
men  as  they  ought  to  be,  the  other  as  they  are.  There 
is  in  the  first  more  of  what  we  admire  and  what  we  ought 
even  to  imitate  ;  and  in  the  second  more  of  what  we 
perceive  in  others  or  feel  within  ourselves.  Corneille* 
elevates,  surprises,  controls  and  instructs  us ;  Racine 
pleases,  affects,  moves  and  penetrates  us.  The  former 
employs  the  most  beautiful,  the  most  noble,  and  the 
most  commanding  arguments ;  the  latter  depicts  the 
most  praiseworthy  and  the  most  refined  passions.  One 
is  full  of  maxims,  rules,  and  precepts  ;  the  other  of  taste 
and  feeling.  Our  mind  is  kept  more  occupied  by  Cor- 
neille's  tragedies,  but  by  Racine's  we  are  more  softened 
and   moved.       Corneille   is   more    moral,   Racine   more 


1  Three  tragedies  by  Corneille.  Though  he  himself  calls  the  last  tragedy 
by  the  name  given  above,  its  real  title  is  Horace. 

-  Mithridates,  the  hero  of  Racine's  tragedy  of  that  name  ;  Porus,  a  cha- 
racter in  the  Alexandre,  and  Burrhus  in  the  BritannicusoOhe  same  author. 


32  OF   WORKS    OF   THE    MIND. 

natural.^  The  one  seems  to  imitate  Sophocles,  the  other 
Euripides.  2 

(55.)  What  the  people  call  eloquence  is  the  facility 
some  persons  have  of  speaking  alone  and  for  a  long 
time,  aided  by  extravagant  gestures,  a  loud  voice,  and 
powerful  lungs.  Pedants  also  will  not  recognise  elo- 
quence except  in  public  orations,  and  can  see  no  distinc- 
tion between  it  and  a  heap  of  figures,  the  use  of  big 
words  and  flowing  periods. 

It  seems  that  logic  is  the  art  of  making  some  truth 
prevail,  and  that  eloquence  is  a  gift  of  the  soul  which 
renders  us  master  of  the  hearts  and  minds  of  other  men, 
so  that  we  suggest  to  them,  or  persuade  them,  to  do 
whatever  we  please. 

Eloquence  may  be  found  in  conversations  and  in  all 
kind  of  writings  ;  it  is  rarely  found  when  looked  for,  and 
sometimes  discovered  where  it  is  least  expected. 

Eloquence  is  to  the  sublime  what  the  whole  is  to  its 
part. 

What  is  the  sublime  ?  It  does  not  appear  to  have 
been  defined.  Is  it  a  figure  of  speech  ?  Does  it  spring 
from  figures,  or  at  least  from  some  figures  of  speech  ?  ^ 
Does  the  sublime  enter  into  all  kinds  of  writings,  or  are 
grand  subjects  only  fit  for  it  ?  *     Can  an  eclogue  display 

1  In  the  comparison  between  Corneille  and  Racine  there  are  some  remi- 
niscences of  a  Parallele  dc  M.  Corneille  et  de  M.  Racine,  published  in  16S6 
by  a  certain  author,  de  Requeleyne,  Baron  de  Longepierre. 

2  Sophocles  (495-406  B.c  ),  Eur  pides  (480-406  B.C.) 

3  Cassius  Longinus  (213-273),  a  Greek  orator,  philosopher,  and  author, 
is  chiefly  known  by  his  "  Treatise  on  the  Sublime,"  which  is  generally  attri- 
buted to  him.  In  it  he  states  that  there  are  five  principal  sources  of  the 
sublime,  and  that  the  third  is  nought  but  the  figures  of  speech  turned  about 
in  a  certain  manner.  Boileau's  translation  of  this  "Treatise"  appeared  n 
1674,  and  in  his  preface  he  de.-.cribed  but  did  not  define  the  sublime,  a  defi- 
nition also  not  found  in  Lcmginus. 

*  The  original  has  capable,  in  the  sense  of  the  Latin  capax. 


OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND.  33 

anything  but  fine  simplicity,  and  familiar  letters  as  well 
as  conversation  anything  but  great  delicacy  ?  Are  sim- 
plicity and  delicacy  not  the  sublime  of  those  works  of 
which  they  are  the  perfection  ?  What  is  this  sublime  ? 
Where  does  it  begin  ?  ^ 

Synonyms  are  several  words  or  various  phrases  which 
are  the  precise  equivalents  of  each  other.  An  antithesis 
is  an  opposition  of  two  truths  which  throw  light  on  one 
another.  A  metaphor  or  a  comparison  borrows  from  a 
foreign  matter  a  sensible  and  natural  image  of  a  truth. - 
A  hyperbole  exaggerates  truth  to  enable  the  mind  to 
understand  it  better.  The  sublime  paints  nothing  but 
the  truth,  and  that  only  in  noble  subjects  ;  it  depicts  all 
its  causes  and  effects  ;  it  is  the  most  meritorious  expres- 
sion or  image  of  this  truth.  Ordinary  minds  cannot  find 
the  only  right  expression,  and,  therefore,  use  synonyms. 
Young  men  are  dazzled  by  the  lustre  of  an  antithesis,  and 
employ  it.  Sensible  people,  who  delight  in  exact  ima- 
gery, of  course,  are  led  away  by  comparisons  and  meta- 
phors. Sharp  people,  full  of  fire,  and  carried  away  by 
a  lively  imagination  beyond  all  bounds  and  accuracy, 
cannot  be  satiated  with  hyperboles.  As  for  the  sub- 
lime, even  among  the  greatest  geniuses,  only  the  highest 
can  reach  it.  • 

(56.)  Every  author  who  wishes  to  write  clearly  should 
put  himself  in  the  place  of  his  readers,  examine  his  own 
work  as  something  new  to  him,  which  he  reads  for  the 

1  According  to  Boile.iu,  Longinus  does  not  understand  by  "  sublime"  a 
sublime  style,  but  something  extraordinary  and  marvellously  striking,  which 
causes  a  work  to  enrapture,  delight,  and  transport  us.  A  sublime  style 
always  requires  grand,  eloquent  words  ;  but  the  sublime  may  be  found  in 
a  single  thought,  a  single  figure  of  speech,  a  single  phrase.  Lcnginus  him- 
self says  that  anything  which  leaves  us  food  for  thought,  which  almost 
carries  us  away,  and  of  which  the  remembrance  is  lasting,  is  subiime. 

^  In  rhetoric  there  is  a  difference  between  a  metaphor  and  a  cumoarison. 

C 


34  OF   WORKS   OF   THE    MIND. 

first  time,  is  not  at  all  concerned  in,  and  which  has  been 
submitted  to  his  criticism  ;  and  then  be  convinced  that 
no  one  will  understand  what  is  written  merely  because 
the  author  understands  it  himself,  but  because  it  is 
really  intelligible. 

(57.)  People  write  only  to  be  understood,  but  they 
should,  at  least,  in  their  writings  produce  very  beautiful 
things.  They  ought  to  have  a  pure  style,  and,  in  truth, 
employ  a  suitable  phraseology  ;  moreover,  their  phrases 
should  express  noble,  intense,  and  solid  thoughts,  and 
contain  a  very  fine  meaning.  A  pure  and  clear  style  is 
thrown  away  on  a  dry,  barren  subject,  without  either 
spirit,  use,  or  novelty.  What  avails  it  to  any  reader 
to  understand  easily  and  without  any  difficulty  some 
frivolous  and  puerile  subject,  not  seldom  dull  and 
common,  when  he  is  less  in  doubt  about  the  meaning 
of  the  author  than  tired  with  his  work  ? 

If  we  aim  at  being  profound  in  certain  writings,  if  we 
affect  a  polite  turn,  and  sometimes  too  much  delicacy,  it 
is  merely  because  we  have  a  good  opinion  of  our  readers. 

(58.)  The  disadvantage  of  reading  books  written  by 
people  belonging  to  a  certain  party  or  a  certain  set  is 
that  they  do  not  always  contain  the  truth.  Facts  are 
disguised,  the  arguments  or^  both  sides  are  not  brought 
forward  in  all  their  strength,  nor  are  they  quite  accu- 
rate ;  and  what  wears  out  the  greatest  patience  is  that 
we  must  read  a  large  number  of  harsh  and  scurrilous 
reflections,  tossed  to  and  fro  by  serious-minded  men,  who 
consider  themselves  personally  insulted  when  any  point 
of  doctrine  or  any  doubtful  matter  is  controverted.  Such 
works  possess  this  peculiarity,  that  they  neither  deserve 
the  prodigious  success  they  have  for  a  certain  time,  nor 
the  profound  oblivion  into  which  they  fall  afterwards, 


OF   WORKS    OF   THE    MIND.  35 

when  the  rage  and  contention  have  ceased,  and  they 
become  like  almanacks  out  of  date.^ 

(59.)  It  is  the  glory  and  the  merit  of  some  men  to 
write  well,  and  of  others  not  to  write  at  all. 

(60.)  Some  persons  have  been  writing  regularly  for  the 
last  twenty  years  ;  they  have  faithfully  observed  all  rules 
of  composition,  enriched  the  language  with  new  words, 
thrown  off  the  yoke  of  Latinism,  and  given  to  style  a  pure 
French  phraseology ;  they  have  almost  recovered  that 
harmony  which  Malherbe  and  Balzac  first  discovered, 
and  which  since  then  so  many  authors  allowed  to  be 
lost ;  they  have,  in  short,  given  to  our  style  all  the 
clearness  it  is  capable  of,  and  this  will  gradually  lead  to 
it  becoming  easily  understood.^ 

(61.)  There  are  some  artists  ^  or  men  of  ability  whose 
intelligence  is  as  extensive  as  the  art  or  science  they  pro- 
fess ;  they  repay  with  interest,  through  their  genius  and 
inventive  powers,  what  they  borrowed  from  it  and  from 
its  first  principles  ;  they  stray  from  art  to  ennoble  it,  and 
deviate  from  its  rules  if  they  do  not  make  use  of  them 
to  attain  the  grand  and  the  sublime  ;  they  walk  alone 
and  unaccompanied,  but  they  soar  very  high  and  are 
very  penetrating,  always  certain  of  the  advantages  some- 
times to  be  obtained  by  irregularity,  and  assured  of  their 
success.-  Careful,  timorous,  and  sedate  minds  not  alone 
never  obtain  those  advantages,  but  they  do  not  admire 

1  The  above  paragraph  is  said  to  refer  to  the  polemical  writings  inter- 
changed between  the  Jesuits  and  Jansenists,  and  seems  not  quite  fair  to 
Pascal's  Lettres  Provinciales. 

2  Some  "  Keys"  mention  the  names  of  Bouhours  and  Bourdaloue,  whilst 
more  modern  commentators  think  that  La  Bruyere  only  wished  to  give  a 
paragraph  on  the  French  prose  of  his  time. 

'  The  original  has  artisan,  which  even  in  La  Bruyere's  time  meant  an 
artisan,  when  used  without  being  qualified ;  our  author  employs  it,  how- 
ever, for  "artist." 


36  OF    WORKS    OF    THE    MIND. 

them  nor  even  understand  them,  and  are  much  less  likely 
to  imitate  them  ;  they  dwell  peaceably  within  the  com- 
pass of  their  sphere,  go  up  to  a  certain  point,  which  is 
the  limit  of  their  capacity  and  knowledge,  but  penetrate 
no  farther,  because  they  see  nothing  beyond  it ;  they 
are  at  best  but  the  first  of  a  second  class  and  excel  in 
mediocrity. 

(62.)  If  I  may  venture  to  say  so,  there  are  certain  in- 
ferior or  second-rate  minds,  who  seem  only  fit  to  become 
the  receptacle,  register,  or  storehouse  of  all  the  produc- 
tions of  other  talents  ;  ^  they  are  plagiarists,  translators, 
compilers ;  they  never  think,  but  tell  you  what  other  authors 
have  thought ;  and  as  a  selection  of  thoughts  requires 
some  inventive  powers,  theirs  is  ill-made  and  inaccurate, 
which  induces  them  rather  to  make  it  large  than  excellent. 
They  have  no  originality,  and  possess  nothing  of  their  own ; 
they  only  know  what  they  have  learned,  and  only  learn 
what  the  rest  of  the  world  does  not  wish  to  know  ;  a  use- 
less and  dry  science,  without  any  charm  or  profit,  unfit 
for  conversation,  nor  suitable  to  intercourse,  like  a  coin 
which  has  no  currency.  We  are  astonished  when  we 
read  them,  as  well  as  tired  out  by  their  conversation  or 
their  works.  The  nobility  and  the  common  herd  mistake 
them  for  men  of  learning,  but  intelligent  men  rank  them 
with  pedants. 

(63.)  Criticism  is  often  not  a  science  but  a  trade,  re- 
quiring more  health  than  intelligence,  more  industry  than 
capacity,  more  practice  than  genius.  If  it  is  exercised 
by  a  person  of  less  discernment  than  culture,  and  treats 

1  Some  annotators  say  a  certain  Abbe  Bourdelon  (1653-1730),  a  com- 
pletely forgotten  critic,  was  meant ;  others  think  it  was  a  hit  at  Menage 
(1613-1692),  who  had  the  good  sense  not  to  recognise  himself  in  this  portrait, 
and  is  said  to  have  been  also  the  original  of  Vadius  in  Moliere's  Fenimes 
Savanies. 


OF    WORKS    OF    THE    MIND.  37 

of  certain  subjects,  it  will  spoil  the  reader's  judgment  as 
well  as  that  of  the  author  criticised. 

(64.)  I  would  advise  an  author  who  can  only  imitate,^ 
and  who  is  modest  enough  to  tread  in  the  footsteps  of  other 
men,  to  choose  for  his  models  writings  that  are  full  of  in- 
telligence, imagination,  or  even  learning  :  if  he  does  not 
come  up  to  his  originals,  he  may  at  least  come  somewhat 
near  them,  and  be  read.  He  ought,  on  the  contrary,  to 
avoid,  as  a  rock  ahead,  the  imitation  of  those  authors  who 
have  a  natural  inclination  for  writing,  employ  phrases  and 
figures  of  speech  which  spring  from  the  heart,  and  who 
draw,  if  I  may  say  so,  from  their  inmost  feelings  all  they 
express  on  paper.  They  are  dangerous  models,  and 
induce  those  who  endeavour  to  follow  them  to  adopt  a 
cold,  vulgar,  and  ridiculous  style.  Indeed,  I  should  laugh 
at  a  man  who  would  seriously  imitate  my  tone  of  voice, 
or  endeavour  to  be  like  me  in  the  face. 

(65,)  A  man  bom  a  Christian  and  a  Frenchman  is 
constrained  when  he  uses  satire,  for  he  is  forbidden  to 
exercise  it  on  great  subjects  ;  sometimes  he  commences 
to  write  about  them,  but  then  turns  to  trifling  topics, 
which  he  enhances  by  the  splendourof  hisgeniusandstyle.^ 

1  This  author  was  the  Abbe  de  Villiers,  who  published  in  1682  a  poem  in 
four  cantos,  V Art  de Precher,  in  which  he  tried  to  \vb\\3Xc L' Art  po^tique  oi 
Hoileau,  and  in  1690  Re/lexions  sur  Us  dilauts  d'autrni,  which  were  very 
successful ;  some  suppose  Father  Bouhours'  Pensies  ingenieuses  des  anciens 
et  des  modernes(\b%q)  hinted  at ;  whilst  M.  G.  Servois,  the  able  editor  of  La 
Bruyere  in  the  Grands  Ecrh'ai'ns  de  la  Prance  (1865-1878),  thinks  that  pos- 
sibly the  "author"  was  Jacques  Brillon,  a  lawyer  and  indefatigable  imitator, 
who  in  his  youth  may  have  been  presumptuous  enough  to  have  asked  La 
Bruyere's  advice  on  some  of  his  literary  works,  the  Portraits  s^rieux,  etc., 
the  L'Ouvrage  nonveau  dans  le goiit  des  Caracteres  de  'Ph^opliraste  et  des 
Pensees  de  Pascal,  the  Theophraste  nioderne,  etc.,  which  three  books  ap- 
peared, however,  after  La  Bruyere's  death,  from  1696  to  1700.  Adrien  Baillet, 
an  erudite  scholar  and  fertile  author,  is  also  mentioned  by  some  "  Keys." 

2  Itisnow  generally  supposed  thatby  the  satirist  described  Boileau  is  meant, 
for  he  sometimes  commences  grand  subjects,  as  in  his  satires  Sur  I' Homme 


38  OF    WORKS    OF   THE    MIND. 

(66.)  The  turgid  and  puerile  style  of  Dorilas  and 
Handburg  ^  should  always  be  avoided.  In  certain  writ- 
ings, on  the  contrary,  a  man  sometimes  may  be  bold  in 
his  expressions,  and  use  metaphorical  phrases  which 
depict  his  subject  vividly,  whilst  pitying  those  who  do 
not  feel  the  pleasure  there  is  in  employing  and  under- 
standing them. 

(67.)  He  who  only  writes  to  suit  the  taste  of  the  age, 
considers  himself  more  than  his  writings.  We  should 
always  aim  at  perfection,  and  then  posterity  will  do  us 
that  justice  which  sometimes  our  contemporaries  refuse 
us. 

(68.)  We  ought  never  to  turn  into  ridicule  a  subject 
that  does  not  lend  itself  to  it ;  it  spoils  our  taste,  vitiates 
our  judgment  as  well  as  other  men's  ;  but  we  should  per- 
ceive ridicule  where  it  does  exist,  show  it  up  delicately, 
and  in  a  manner  which  both  pleases  and  instructs. 

(6g.)  "  Horace  or  Boileau  have  said  such  a  thing  be- 
fore you." — "  I  take  your  word  for  it,  but  I  have  used  it 
as  my  own.  May  I  not  have  the  same  correct  thought 
after  them,  as  others  may  have  after  me  ? " 


or  Siir  la  IVoblesse,  but  he  never  enters  deeply  into  the  matter,  and  treats  of 
l^es  Embarras  de  Puns  or  Le  Repas  ridicule. 

1  Those  names  stand  for  Varillas  (1624-1605)  and  Maimbourg(i6io-i686), 
two  voluminous  historians,  the  first  of  whom  is  known  for  the  inaccuracy  of 
his  facts,  the  second  by  his  pretentious  style,  though  Madame  de  Se'vigne 
and  Voltaire  do  not  entirely  condemn  the  latter,and  '&2C^\e.,\x\\\\%Diction7iaire, 
praises  his  knowledge  and  accuracy.  "Handburg"  is  the  German  for 
"  Maimbourg." 


III. 


OF  PERSONAL  MERIT. 


(i.)  "\X7'HAT  man  is  not  convinced  of  his  inefficiency, 
though  endowed  with  the  rarest  talents  and 
the  most  extraordinary  merit,  when  he  considers  that 
at  his  death  he  leaves  a  world  that  will  not  feel  his 
loss,  and  where  so  many  people  are  ready  to  supply  his 
place  ? 

(2.)  All  the  worth  of  some  people  lies  in  their  name; 
upon  a  closer  inspection  it  dwindles  to  nothing,  but  from 
a  distance  it  deceives  us. 


40  OF    PERSONAL    MERIT. 

(3.)  Though  I  am  convinced  that  those  who  are 
selected  to  fill  various  offices,  every  man  according  to 
his  talents  and  his  profession,  perform  their  duties  well, 
yet  I  venture  to  say  that  perhaps  there  are  many  men 
in  this  world,  known  or  unknown,  who  are  not  employed, 
and  would  perform  those  duties  also  very  well.  I  am 
inclined  to  think  so  from  the  marvellous  success  of 
certain  people,  who  through  chance  alone  obtained  a 
place,  and  from  whom  until  then  no  great  things  were 
expected. 

How  many  admirable  men,  of  very  great  talent,  die 
without  ever  being  talked  about  !  And  how  many  are 
there  living  yet  of  whom  one  does  not  speak,  nor  ever 
will  speak  ! 

(4.)  A  man  without  eulogists  and  without  a  set  of 
friends,  who  is  unconnected  with  any  clique,  stands 
alone,  and  has  no  other  recommendations  but  a  good 
deal  of  merit,  has  very  great  difficulty  in  emerging  from 
his  obscurity  and  in  rising  as  high  as  a  conceited  noodle 
who  has  a  good  deal  of  influence  ! 

(5.)  No  one  hardly  ever  thinks  of  the  merit  of  others, 
unless  it  is  pointed  out  to  him.  Men  are  too  engrossed 
by  themselves  to  have  the  leisure  of  penetrating  or  dis- 
cerning character,  so  that  a  person  of  great  merit  and  of 
greater  modesty  may  languish  a  long  time  in  obscurity. 

(6.)  Genius  and  great  talents  are  often  wanting,  but 
sometimes  only  opportunities.  Some  people  deserve 
praise  for  what  they  have  done,  and  others  for  what  they 
would  have  done. 

(7.)  It  is  not  so  uncommon  to  meet  with  intelligence 
as  with  people  who  make  use  of  it,  or  who  praise  other 
persons'  intelligence  and  employ  it. 

(8.)  There  are  more  tools  than  workmen,  and  of  the 


OF    PERSONAL    MERIT.  4I 

latter  more  bad  than  good  ones.  What  would  you  think 
of  a  man  who  would  use  a  plane  to  saw,  and  his  saw 
to  plane? 

_  (9.)  There  is  no  business  in  this  world  so  troublesome 
as  the  pursuit  of  fame  :  life  is  over  before  you  have 
hardly  begun  your  work. 

(10.)  What  is  to  be  done  with  Egesippus  who  solicits 
some  employment  ?  Shall  he  have  a  post  in  the  finances 
or  in  the  army  ?  It  does  not  matter  much,  and  interest 
alone  can  decide  it,  for  he  is  as  able  to  handle  money 
or  to  make  up  accounts  as  to  be  a  soldier.  "  He  is  fit 
for  anything,"  say  his  friends,  which  always  means  that 
he  has  no  more  talent  for  one  thing  than  for  another,  or, 
in  other  words,  that  he  is  fit  for  nothing.  Thus  it  is 
with  most  men  ;  in  their  youth  they  are  only  occupied 
with  themselves,  are  spoiled  by  idleness  or  pleasure,  and 
then  wrongly  imagine,  when  more  advanced  in  years, 
that  it  is  sufficient  for  them  to  be  useless  or  poor  for  the 
commonwealth  to  be  obliged  to  give  them  a  place  or  to 
relieve  them.  They  seldom  profit  by  that  important 
maxim,  that  men  ought  to  employ  the  first  years  of  their 
lives  in  so  qualifying  themselves  by  their  studies  and 
labour,  that  the  commonwealth  itself,  needing  their  in- 
dustry and  their  knowledge  as  necessary  materials  for 
its  building  up,  might  be  induced,  for  its  own  benefit,  to 
make  their  fortune  or  improve  it. 

It  is  our  duty  to  labour  in  order  to  make  ourselves 
worthy  of  filling  some  office  :  the  rest  does  not  concern 
us,  but  is  other  people's  business. 

(11.)  To  make  the  most  of  ourselves  through  things 
which  do  not  depend  on  others  but  on  ourselves  alone, 
or  to  abandon  all  ideas  of  making  the  most  of  ourselves, 
is  an  inestimable  maxim  and  of  infinite  advantage  when 


42  OF    PERSONAL   MERIT. 

brought  into  practice,  useful  to  the  weak,  the  virtuous, 
and  the  intelligent,  whom  it  renders  masters  of  their 
fortune  or  their  ease  ;  hurtful  to  the  great,  as  it  would 
diminish  the  number  of  their  attendants,  or  rather  of 
their  slaves,  would  abate  their  pride,  and  partly  their 
authority,  and  would  almost  reduce  them  to  the  pleasures 
of  the  table  and  the  splendour  of  their  carriages  ;  it  would 
deprive  them  of-the  pleasure  they  feel  in  being  entreated, 
courted,  solicited ;  of  allowing  people  to  dance  attend- 
ance on  them,  or  of  refusing  any  request ;  of  promising 
and  not  performing ;  it  would  thwart  the  disposition 
they  sometimes  have  of  bringing  fools  forward  and  of 
depressing  merit  when  they  chance  to  discern  it ;  it 
would  banish  from  courts  plots,  parties,  trickery,  base- 
ness, flattery,  and  deceit ;  it  would  make  a  court,  full  of 
agitation,  bustle,  and  intrigue,  resemble  a  comedy,  or  even 
a  tragedy,  where  the  wise  are  only  spectators  ;  it  would 
restore  dignity  to  the  several  conditions  of  men,  serenity 
to  their  looks,  enlarge  their  liberty,  and  awaken  in  them 
their  natural  talents  as  well  as  a  habit  for  work  and  for 
exercise  ;  it  would  excite  them  to  emulation,  to  a  desire 
for  renown,  a  love  for  virtue  ;  and  instead  of  vile,  rest- 
less, useless  courtiers,  often  burdensome  to  the  common- 
wealth, would  make  them  clever  administrators,  exem- 
plary heads  of  families,  upright  judges  or  good  financiers, 
great  commanders,  orators,  or  philosophers ;  and  all  the 
inconvenience  any  of  them  would  suffer  through  this 
would  be,  perhaps,  to  leave  to  their  heirs  less  treasures, 
but  excellent  examples. 

(i2.)  In  France  a  great  deal  of  resolution,  as  well  as 
a  widely  cultivated  intellect,  are  required  to  decline  posts 
and  offices,  and  thus  consent  to  remain  in  retirement 
and  to  do  nothing.     Almost  no  one  has  merit  enough 


OF   PERSONAL   MERIT.  43 

to  play  this  part  in  a  dignified  manner,  or  solidity 
enough  to  pass  their  leisure  hours  without  what  is  vul- 
garly called  "  business."  There  is,  however,  nothing 
wanting  to  the  idleness  of  a  philosopher  but  a  better 
name,  and  that  meditation,  conversation,  and  reading 
should  be  called  "  work." 

(13.)  A  man  of  merit,  and  in  office,  is  never  trouble- 
some through  vanity.  The  post  he  fills  does  not  elate 
him  much,  because  he  thinks  that  he  deserves  a  more 
important  one,  which  he  does  not  occupy,  and  this 
mortifies  him.  He  is  more  incHned  to  be  restless  than 
to  be  haughty  or  disdainful ;  he  is  only  uncomfortable 
to  himself. 

(14.)  It  goes  against  the  grain  of  a  man  of  merit 
continually  to  dance  attendance,  but  for  a  reason  quite 
the  opposite  of  what  some  might  imagine.  His  very 
merits  make  him  modest,  so  that  he  is  far  from  thinking 
that  he  gives  the  smallest  pleasure  by  showing  him- 
self when  the  prince  passes,  by  placing  himself  just 
before  him,  and  by  letting  him  look  at  his  face  ;  he  is 
more  apt  to  fear  being  importunate,  and  he  needs  many 
arguments  based  on  custom  and  duty  to  persuade  him- 
self to  make  his  appearance ;  while,  on  the  contrary,  a 
man  who  has  a  good  opinion  of  himself,  and  who  is 
usually  called  a  conceited  man,i  likes  to  show  himself, 
and  pays  his  court  with  the  more  confidence  as  it  never 
enters  into  his  head  that  the  great  people  by  whom  he  is 
seen  may  think  otherwise  of  him  than  he  thinks  of  himself. 

(15.)  A  gentleman  ^  repays  himself  for  the  zeal  with 


1  Glorieux  in  the  original,  which  in  La  Bruyere's  time,  and  even  later, 
had  the  meaning  "conceited."  One  of  N.  Destouches'  (1680-1754)  best 
comedies  is  called  Le  Glorieux. 

*  The  original  hasunhonnlte  hontme,  which  meant,  in  La  Bruyere's  time, 


44  OF    PERSONAL    MERIT, 

which  he  performs  his  duty  by  the  pleasure  he  enjoys  in 
acting  thus,  and  does  not  regret  the  praise,  esteem,  and 
gratitude  which  he  sometimes  does  not  receive. 

(i6.)  If  I  dared  to  make  a  comparison  between  two 
conditions  of  Hfe  vastly  different,  I  would  say  that  a 
courageous  soldier  applies  himself  to  perform  his  duty 
almost  in  the  same  maijner  as  a  tyler  goes  about  his 
work ;  neither  the  one  nor  the  other  seeks  to  expose  his 
life,  nor  are  diverted  by  danger,  for  to  them  death  is  an 
accident  of  their  callings,  but  never  an  obstacle.  Thus 
the  first  is  scarcely  more  proud  of  having  appeared  in 
the  trenches,  carried  some  advanced  works  or  forced 
some  intrenchment,  than  the  other  of  having  climbed 
on  some  high  roof,  or  on  the  top  of  a  steeple.  Both 
have  but  endeavoured  to  act  well,  whilst  an  ostentatious 
man  gives  himself  endless  trouble  to  have  it  said  that 
he  has  acted  well. 

(17.)  Modesty  is  to  merit  what  shade  is  to  figures 
in  a  picture  ;  it  gives  it  strength  and  makes  it  stand 
out,  A  plain  appearance  is  to  ordinary  men  their 
proper  garb  :  it  suits  them  and  fits  them,  but  it  adorns 
those  persons  whose  lives  have  been  distinguished  by 
grand  deeds  ;  I  compare  them  to  a  beauty  who  is  most 
charming  in  n^gligi. 

Some  men,  satisfied  with  themselves  because  their 
actions  or  works  have  been  tolerably  successful,  and 
having  heard  that  modesty  becomes  great  men,  affect 
the  simplicity  and  the  natural  air  of  truly  modest  people, 
like  those  persons  of  middling  size  who  stoop,  when 
under  a  doorway,  for  fear  of  hurting  their  heads. 

(18.)  Your   son   stammers;   do  not  think   of  letting 

"  a  gentleman,  a  well-mannered  man,"  but  never  "  an  honest  man,"  wliich 
is  in  French  un  honitne  de  bien. 


OF    PERSONAL    MERIT.  45 

him  make  speeches  ;  your  daughter,  too,  looks  as  if  she 
were  made  for  the  world,  so  never  immure  her  among 
the  vestals.i  Xanthus,  your  freedman,  is  feeble  and 
timorous  ;  therefore  do  not  delay,  but  let  him  instantly 
leave  the  army  and  the  soldiers.^  You  say  you  would 
promote  him,  heap  wealth  on  him,  overwhelm  him  with 
lands,  titles,  and  possessions :  make  the  most  of  your 
time,  for  in  the  present  age  they  will  do  him  far  more 
credit  than  virtue.  "  But  this  will  cost  me  too  much," 
you  reply.  "Ah,  Crassus,  do  you  speak  seriously?  Why, 
for  you  to  enrich  Xanthus,  whom  you  love,  is  no  more 
than  taking  a  drop  of  water  from  the  Tiber  ;  and  thus 
you  prevent  the  bad  consequences  of  his  having  entered 
a  profession  for  which  he  was  not  fit." 

(19.)  It  is  virtue  alone  which  should  guide  us  in  the 
choice  of  our  friends,  without  any  inquiry  into  their 
poverty  or  riches  ;  and  as  we  are  resolved  not  to  abandon 
them  in  adversity,  we  may  boldly  and  freely  cultivate 
their  friendship  even  in  their  greatest  prosperity. 

(20.)  If  it  be  usual  to  be  strongly  impressed  by 
things  that  are  scarce,  why  are  we  so  little  impressed 
by  virtue  "^ 

(21.)  If  it  be  a  happiness  to  be  of  noble  parentage, 
it  is  no  less  so  to  possess  so  much  merit  that  nobody 
inquires  whether  we  are  noble  or  plebeian. 

1  "The  stammerer"  was  meant  for  the  son  of  Achille  de  Harlay  (1639- 
1712),  chief  president  of  the  parliament  of  Paris,  and  is  said  not  to  have 
stammered,  but  to  have  been  very  idle,  and  without  a«y  oratorical  talents. 
Vet,  in  1691,  at  tlie  age  of  twenty-three,  he  was  appointed  advocate-general, 
through  the  influence  of  his  father.  Hence  his  appearance  in  the  sixth 
edition  of  the  "  Characters,"  also  published  in  1691.  Mdlle.  de  Harlay,  a 
daughter  of  the  first  president,  was  sent  to  a  convent  in  1686  on  account 
of  her  affection  for  Dumesnil,  a  singer  at  the  Opera. 

3  Xanthus  was  M.  de  Courtenvaux,  the  eldest  son  of  the  Minister  for 
War,  M.  de  Louvois,  and  is  said  not  to  have  excelled  either  in  good  looks 
or  bravery. 


46  OF    PERSONAL   MERIT. 

(22.)  From  time  to  time  have  appeared  in  the  world 
some  extraordinary  and  admirable  men,  refulgent  by 
their  virtues,  and  whose  eminent  qualities  have  shone 
with  prodigious  brilliancy,  like  those  uncommon  stars  of 
which  we  do  not  know  why  they  appear,  and  know  still 
less  what  becomes  of  them  after  they  have  disappeared. 
These  men  have  neither  ancestors  nor  posterity ;  they 
alone  are  their  whole  race. 

(23.)  A  sensible  mind  shows  us  dur  duty  and  the 
obhgation  we  lie  under  to  perform  it,  and  if  attended 
with  danger,  to  perform  it  in  spite  of  danger  ;  it  inspires 
us  with  courage  or  supplies  the  want  of  it. 

(24.)  He  who  excels  in  his  art,  so  as  to  carry  it  to  the 
utmost  height  of  perfection,  goes  in  some  measure 
beyond  it,  and  becomes  the  equal  of  whatever  is  most 
noble  and  most  transcendental  :  thus  V.  .  .  is  an  artist, 
C.  .  .  a  musician,  and  the  author  oiPyrame  a  poet ;  but 
Mignard  is  Mignard,  LuUi  is  LuUi,  and  Corneille  is 
Corneille.1 

(25).  A  man  who  is  single  and  independent,  and  who 
has  some  intelligence,  may  rise  above  his  fortune,  mix 
/  with  the  world,  and  be  considered  the  equal  of  the  best 
/  society,  which  is  not  so  easily  done  if  encumbered. 
/ ,  Marriage  seems  to  place  everybody  in  their  proper 
/ ,'  station  of  life. 

(26.)  Next  to  personal  merit,  it  must  be  owned  that 

IV...  stands  fqr  Claude  Francois  Vignon  (1634-1703),  a  son  of  an 
artist  of  the  same  name  ;  C.  .  .  is  Pascal  Colasse,  a  pupil  of  Lulli,  whose 
opera,  Acliille  et  Polyxine,  was  played  a  short  time  before  the  "  Charac- 
ters" were  first  published  (1687);  Pyrame,  written  by  Pradon  (1632-1698), 
was  acted  in  1674 ;  he  had  brought  out  several  other  tragedies  before 
the  first  appearance  of  La  Bruyere's  book.  At  that  time  Pierre  Mignard 
(1635-1695),  the  celebrated  artist,  and  Pierre  Corneille  (1606-1694)  were 
still  alive,  and  Lulli  (1633-1687),  the  great  musician,  had  only  been  dead 
a  few  months. 


OF    PERSONAL    MERIT.  47 

from  eminent  dignities  and  lofty  titles  men  derive  the 
greatest  distinction  and  lustre ;  and  thus  a  man  who 
will  never  make  an  Erasmus  ^  is  right  when  he  thinks 
of  becoming  a  bishop.  2  Some,  to  spread  their  fame, 
heap  up  dignities,  decorations,^  bishoprics,  become 
cardinals,  and  may  want  the  tiara  ;  but  what  need  for 
Trophime*  to  become  a  cardinal. 

(27.)  You  tell  me  that  Philemon's  ^  clothes  blaze  with 
gold,  but  that  metal  also  shone  when  they  were  in  the 
tailor's  shop.  His  clothes  are  made  of  the  finest  mate- 
rials ;  but  are  those  same  materials  less  fine  in  the 
warehouse  or  in  the  whole  piece .''  But  then  the  em- 
broidery and  trimmings  make  them  still  more  magni- 
ficent. I  praise,  therefore,  the  skill  of  his  tailor.  Ask 
him  what  o'clock  it  is,  and  he  pulls  out  a  watch,  a 
masterpiece  of  workmanship  ;  the  handle  of  his  sword 
is  an  onyx,^  and  on  his  finger  he  wears  a  large  diamond 
which  dazzles  our  eyes  and  has  no  flaw.  He  wants 
none   of   all  those   curious  nicknacks  which  are  worn 


1  Desiderius  Erasmus  (1467-1536),  one  of  the  most  celebrated  scholars  and 
learned  men  of  his  time. 

2  By  this  bishop  some  say  was  meant  M.  de  Harlay  (1625-1695),  arch- 
bishop of  Paris ;  others  think  the  archbishop  of  Rheims,  Le  Tellier  (1642- 
1710),  the  brother  of  Louvois,  was  design  ited.     See  also  page  141,  note  i. 

3  The  original  has  collier  d'ordre,  the  collar  of  the  order  of  the  Holy 
Ghost. 

*  Trophime,  it  was  supposed,  stood  for  our  author's  friend  B^nigne  Bossuet 
(1627-1704),  the  eminent  theologian,  preacher,  and  bishop  of  Meaux,  but 
he  never  became  a  cardinal.  So  general  was  this  supposition,  that  in  all 
editions  of  the  "  Characters  "  published  after  the  author's  death  the  name 
of  "  B^nigne"  was  put  instead  of  "  Trophime.''  Some  "  Keys,"  however, 
mention  the  name  of  Etienne  le  Camus  (1632-1707),  bishop  of  Grenoble, 
who  became  a  cardinal  in  1686. 

*  Lord  Stafford  is  meant  here  ;  he  was  a  relative  to  the  Duke  of  Norfolk, 
very  rich  and  very  eccentric,  and  married  in  1694  a  daughter  of  the  Count 
de  Gramont.  Some  think  the  Count  d'  Aubign^,  the  brother  of  Mdlle.  de 
Maintenon,  is  spoken  of. 

*  La  Bruyere  adds  in  a  footnote,  "  an  agate." 


48  OF    PERSONAL    MERIT. 

more  for  show  than  service,  and  is  as  profuse  ^  with 
all  kinds  of  ornaments  as  a  young  fellow  who  has 
married  a  wealthy  old  lady.  Well,  at  last  you  have 
excited  my  curiosity :  I  should,  at  least,  like  to  see  all 
this  finery  :  send  me  Philemon's  clothes  and  jewels  •  but 
I  do  not  wish  to  see  him. 

You  are  mistaken,  Philemon,  if  you  think  you  will  be 
esteemed  a  whit  the  more  for  your  showy  coach,  the 
large  number  of  rogues  who  follow  you,  and  those  six 
horses  that  draw  you  along ;  we  mentally  remove  all 
splendour  which  is  not  properly  yours,  to  reach  you 
personally,  and  find  you  to  be  a  mere  conceited  noodle. 

Not  but  that  a  man  is  sometimes  to  be  forgiven  who, 
on  account  of  his  splendid  retinue,  his  rich  clothes,  and 
his  magnificent  carriage,  thinks  himself  of  more  noble 
descent  and  more  intelligent  than  he  really  is ;  for  he 
sees  this  opinion  expressed  on  the  countenances  and  in 
the  eyes  of  those  who  speak  to  him.^ 

(28.)  At  court,  and  often  in  the  city,  a  man  in  a  long 
silken  cassock  or  one  of  very  fine  cloth, ^  with  a  broad 
cincture  tied  high  upon  his  stomach,  shoes  of  the  finest 
morocco  leather,  and  a  httle  skull-cap  of  the  same 
material,  with  well-made  and  well-starched  bands,  his 
hair  smoothed  down,  and  with  a  ruddy  complexion  ; 
who,  besides,  remembers  some  metaphysical  distinctions, 

1  In  the  original  il  ne  se  plaint  tton  pint.  Plaindre  had  sometimes  the 
meaning  of  "to  be  sparing,''  and  Le  Sage  employs  it  in  Gil  Bias  in  that 
sense. 

2  This  is  said  to  apply  to  a  certain  M.  de  Mennevillette,  receveur-general 
of  the  clergy,  whose  son  married  Mdlle.  de  Harlay. 

3  In  the  original  drap  de  Hollande,  because  the  best  cloth  came  from 
Holland.  Colbert  induced  some  Dutch  and  Flemish  weavers  to  settle  in 
France,  where  they  made  a  cloth  called  Toile  Colbertine,  of  which  Moliere 
wore  a  doublet  as  the  Marquis  in  les  Facheux.  Colberteen  is  also  men- 
tioned in  "The  Fop's  Dictionary"  (1690),  and  in  Congreve's  "  The  Way 
of  the  World." 


OF   PERSONAL   MERIT,  49 

explains  what  is  the  lumen  glories,  and  what  it  is  to 
behold  God  face  to  face,^  is  called  a  doctor. 2  A  man 
of  humble  mind,  who  is  immured  in  his  study,  who  has 
meditated,  searched,  compared,  collated,  read  or  written 
all  his  lifetime,  is  a  man  of  learning.  ^ 

(29.)  With  us  a  soldier  is  brave,  a  lawyer  learned ; 
we  proceed  no  farther.  Among  the  Romans  a  lawyer 
was  brave  and  a  soldier  learned ;  a  Roman  was  a 
soldier  and  a  lawyer, 

(30.)  A  hero  seems  to  have  but  one  profession, 
namely,  to  be  a  soldier,  whilst  a  great  man  is  of  all 
professions — a  lawyer,  a  soldier,  a  politician  or  a  cour- 
tier ;  put  them  both  together  and  they  are  not  worth  an 
honest  man.* 

(31.)  In  war  it  is  very  difficult  to  make  a  distinction 
between  a  hero  and  a  great  man,  for  both  possess 
military  virtues.  It  seems,  however,  that  the  first 
should  be  young,  daring,  unmoved  amidst  dangers  and 
dauntless,  whilst  the  other  should  have  extraordinary 
sense,  great  sagacity,  lofty  capacities,  and  a  long  experi- 
ence. Perhaps  Alexander  was  but  a  hero,  and  Caesar  a 
great  man.^ 


1  The  lumen  gloria  is,  according  to  Roman  Catholic  theologians,  "The 
help  God  affords  to  the  souls  of  the  blessed,  to  strengthen  them  that  they 
may  be  able  to  see  God  'face  to  face,'  as  St.  Paul  says  (i  Cor.  xiii.  12), 
or  by  intuition,  as  they  say  in  the  schools  ;  for  without  such  a  help  they 
could  not  bear  the  immediate  presence  of  God." 

*  A  certain  preacher,  Charles  Boileau,  was  meant;  others  think  it  was  a 
canon  of  Notre-Dame,  called  Robert. 

**  The  man  of  learning  is  Mabillon  (1632-1707),  a  scholarly  Benedictine, 
and  author  of  De  Re  diplomatica,  De  Vetera  nnalecta,  and  other  works. 

*  The  original  has  homtne  de  bien.     See  page  43,  note  2. 

'  Montaigne,  Saint-Evremond,  and  the  latest  French  writer  on  Alexander, 
M.  Jurien  de  la  Gravifere,  happily  stiil  alive,  and  formerly  Minister  for  the 
French  Navy,  think  mure  favourably  than  La  Bruyfere  did  of  the  talents  of 
the  youthful  king  of  Macedonia. 

D 


50  OF    PERSONAL   MERIT. 

(32,)  iEmilius  ^  was  born  with  those  qualities  which 
the  greatest  men  do  not  acquire  without  guidance,  long 
study,  and  practice.  He  had  nothing  to  do  in  his  early 
years  but  to  show  himself  worthy  of  his  innate  talents, 
and  to  give  himself  up  to  the  bent  of  his  genius.  He 
has  done  and  performed  deeds  before  he  knew  anything  ; 
or  rather,  he  knew  what  was  never  taught  him.  I  dare 
say  it :  many  victories  were  the  sport  of  his  childhood. 
A  life  attended  by  great  good  fortune  as  well  as  by 
long  experience,  would  have  gained  renown  by  the 
mere  actions  of  his  youth.2  He  embraced  all  oppor- 
tunities of  conquest  which  presented  themselves,  whilst 
his  courage  and  his  good  fortune  created  those  which 
did  not  exist ;  he  was  admired  for  what  he  has  done, 
as  well  as  for  what  he  could  have  done.  He  has 
been  looked  upon  as  a  man  incapable  of  yielding  to 
an  enemy,  or  giving  way  to  numbers  or  difficulties  ; 
as  a  superior  mind,  never  wanting  in  expediency 
or  knowledge,  and  seeing  things  which  no  one  else 
could  see;  as  one  who  was  sure  to -lead  to  victory 
when  at  the  head  of  an  army ;  and  who  singly  was 
more  valuable  than  many  battalions  ;  as  one  who  was 
great  in  prosperity,  greater  when  fortune  was  against 
him, — the  being  compelled  to  raise  a  siege  ^  or  to  beat  a 
retreat  have  gained  him  more  honour  than  a  victory, 
and  they  rank  before  his  gaining  battles  or  taking  of 
towns, — as  one  full  of  glory  and  modesty.      He   has 


1  ^milius  is  the  Prince  de  Conde  (1621-1686).  The  whole  of  the  above 
paragraph  is  filled  with  reminiscences  from  Bossuet's  Oraison  funebre  du 
Prince  de  Conde,  delivered  in  the  year  1687. 

2  The  battle  of  Rocroi  was  won  in  1643,  when  Conde  was  only  twenty- 
two  years  old,  whilst  those  of  Freiburg,  Nordlingen,  and  Lens  were  gained, 
respectively,  in  1644,  1645.  and  1648. 

3  An  allusion  to  the  siege  of  Lerida,  raised  by  Cond^  in  1647. 


OF    PERSONAL    MERIT.  5 1 

been  heard  to  say,  "  I  fled,"  as  calmly  as  he  said, 
"  We  beat  the  enemy ;  "  he  was  a  man  devoted  to  the 
State,!  to  his  family,  to  the  head  of  that  family ;  2  sin- 
cere towards  God  and  men,  as  great  an  admirer  of  merit 
as  if  he  had  not  been  so  well  acquainted  with  it  himself  ; 
a  true,  unaffected,  and  magnanimous  man,  in  whom  none 
but  virtues  of  an  inferior  kind  were  wanting,  ^ 

(33.)  The  offspring  of  the  gods,*  if  I  may  express 
myself  so,  are  beyond  the  laws  of  nature,  and,  as  it 
were,  an  exception  to  them.  They  expect  almost  no- 
thing from  time  or  age ;  for  merit,  in  them,  precedes 
years, ^  They  are  born  well  informed,  and  reach  man- 
hood before  ordinary  men  abandon  infancy. 

(34.)  Short-sighted  men,  I  mean  those  whose  minds 
are  limited  and  never  extend  beyond  their  own  little 
sphere,  cannot  understand  that  universality  of  talent  one 
sometimes  observes  in  the  same  person.  They  allow  no 
one  to  possess  solid  qualities  when  he  is  agreeable ;  or, 
when  they  think  they  have  perceived  in  a  person  some 
bodily  attractions,  such  as  agility,  elasticity,  and  skill, 
they  will  not  credit  him  with  the  possession  of  those  gifts 
of  the  mind,  perspicacity,  judgment,  and  wisdom  ;  they 
will  not  believe  what  is  told  in  the  history  of  Socrates, 
that  he  ever  danced. 

1  La  Bruyere  forgets  the  wars  of  the  Fronde  (1648-1653)  and  the  part 
Conde  took  in  them,  as  well  as  in  the  wars  of  Spain  against  France,  from 
1652  till  1659. 

2  His  grandson  and  his  nephew  married  illegitimate  daughters  of  Louts 
XIV. 

3  An  allusion  to  hii  bad  and  hasty  temper. 

♦  La  Bruyere  adds  in  a  note,  "  Sons  and  grandsons,  descendants  of  kings.'' 
This  seems  a  reminiscence  of  the  Homeric  AioytvfU,  ^ioTpe(f>eii  BoaiAets. 

*  This  compliment  was  addressed  to  the  princes  of  the  Cond^  family,  of 
whom  one,  the  Prince  de  Conti  (1629-1661),  was  in  command  of  the  army  in 
Catalonia,  though  he  had  never  served.     Compare  the  saying  of  Mascarille 
in  Moliere's  I,es  Pricieuses  ridicules:  "  People  of  quality  know  everything! 
without  ever  having  learned  anything. "  I 


52  OF    PERSONAL    MERIT. 

(35,)  There  exists  scarcely  any  man  so  accomplished, 
or  so  necessary  to  his  own  family,  but  he  has  some  fail- 
ing which  will  diminish  their  regret  at  his  loss. 

(36.)  An  intelligent  man,  of  a  simple  and  straight- 
forward character,  may  fall  into  some  snare,  for  he  does 
not  think  that  anybody  would  spread  one  for  him  or  select 
him  in  order  to  deceive  him.  This  assurance  makes  him 
less  cautious,  and  he  is  caught  by  some  rogues  through 
this  failing.  But  the  latter  will  not  be  so  successful 
when  they  attempt  it  a  second  time ;  such  a  man  can 
only  be  deceived  once. 

If  I  am  a  just  man,  I  will  be  careful  not  to  offend 
any  one,  but  above  all  not  to  offend  an  intelligent  man, 
if  I  have  the  smallest  regard  for  my  own  interests. 

(37.)  There  exists  nothing  so  subtle,  so  simple, 
and  so  imperceptible  which  is  not  revealed  to  us  by  a 
something  in  its  composition.  A  blockhead  cannot 
enter  a  room,  nor  leave  it,  nor  sit  down,  nor  rise,  nor 
be  silent,  nor  stand  on  his  legs  like  an  intelligent 
man. 

(38.)  I  made  the  acquaintance  of  Mopsus  ^  through 
a  visit  he  made  me  without  knowing  me  previously ;  he 
asks  people  whom  he  does  not  know  to  present  him  to 
others  to  whom  he  is  equally  unknown  ;  he  writes  to 
ladies  whom  he  only  knows  by  sight.  He  introduces 
himself  into  a  company  of  highly  respectable  people, 
though  he  is  a  perfect  stranger  to  them,  and  with- 
out waiting  till  they  address  him,  or  feeling  that  he 
interrupts  them,  he  often  speaks,  and  that  in  an  absurd 


1  Charles  Castel,  Abbede  Saint  Pierre  (1658-1743),  amemberof  the  French 
Academy,  whence  he  was  ejected  in  1718  on  account  of  his  Discours  sur  la 
Polysynodie,  a  work  in  which  he  proposed  a  kind  of  Constitution  for  the 
French  nation. 


OF   PERSONAL   MERIT.  53 

manner.  Another  time  he  enters  a  public  meeting,  sits 
down  anywhere,  without  paying  any  regard  to  others  or 
to  himself;  and  if  removed  from  a  place  destined  for  a 
Minister  of  State,  he  goes  and  seats  himself  in  the  seat 
of  a  duke  and  peer  of  the  realm ;  he  is  the  laughing- 
stock of  the  whole  compar^y,  yet  the  only  person  who 
keeps  his  countenance.  He  is  like  a  dog  that  is  driven 
out  of  the  king's  chair  and  jumps  into  the  pulpit.  He 
looks  with  indifference,  without  any  embarrassment  or 
without  any  shame,  upon  the  world's  opinion ;  he  and 
a  blockhead  have  the  same  feelings  of  modesty, 

(39.)  CelsusUs  not  of  avery  high  birth,  but  he  is  allowed 
to  visit  the  greatest  men  in  the  land  ;  he  is  not  learned, 
but  he  is  acquainted  with  some  learned  men  ;  he  has  not 
much  merit,  but  he  knows  people  who  have  a  great  deal  of 
it;  he  has  no  abilities,  but  he  has  a  tongue  that  serves  him 
to  be  understood,  and  feet  that  carry  him  from  one  place 
to  another.  He  is  a  man  made  to  run  backwards  and 
forwards,  to  listen  to  proposals  and  to  talk  about  them, 
to  do  this  officially,  to  exceed  the  duties  of  his  post,  and 
even  to  be  disowned ;  to  reconcile  people  who  fall  out 
the  first  time  they  see  one  another ;  to  succeed  in  one 
affair  and  fail  in  a  thousand ;  to  arrogate  all  the  honour 
of  success  to  himself,  and  cast  all  the  blame  of  a  failure 
on  others.  He  knows  all  the  scandal  and  the  tittle- 
tattle,  of  the  town  ;  he  does  nothing  but  only  repeats 
and  hears  what  others  do  ;  he  is  a  newsmonger,  he  is  even 
acquainted  with  family  secrets,  and  busies  himself  about 
the  greatest  mysteries ;  he  tells  you  the  reason  why  a 
certain  person  was  banished  and  another  has  been  re- 
called ;  he  knows  why  and  wherefore  two  brothers  have 

1  Celsiis  is  the  Baron  de  Breteuil,  who  was  sent  in  1682  on  a  diplomatic 
mission  to  the  dukes  of  Parma  and  Modena,  but  failed,  and  was  disowned. 


54  OF    PERSONAL   MERIT. 

quarrelled,^  and  why  two  ministers  have  fallen  out.^ 
Did  he  not  predict  to  the  former  the  sad  consequences 
of  their  misunderstanding  ?  Did  he  not  tell  the  latter 
their  union  would  not  last  long  ?  Was  he  not  present 
when  certain  words  were  spoken  ?  Did  he  not  enter 
into  some  kind  of  negotiation  ?  Would  they  believe 
him  ?  Did  they  mind  what  he  said  ?  To  whom  do  you 
talk  about  those  things  ?  Who  has  had  a  greater  share 
in  all  court  intrigues  than  Celsus  ?  And  if  it  were  not 
so,  or  if  he  had  not  dreamed  or  imagined  it  to  be  so, 
would  he  think  of  making  you  believe  it  ?  Would  he 
put  on  the  grave  and  mysterious  look  of  a  man  newly 
returned  from  an  embassy  ? 

(40.)  Menippus  ^  is  a  bird  decked  in  various  feathers 
which  are  not  his.  He  neither  says  nor  feels  anything, 
but  repeats  the  feelings  and  sayings  of  others ;  it  is  so 
natural  for  him  to  make  use  of  other  people's  minds 
that  he  is  the  first  deceived  by  it,  and  often  believes  he 
speaks  his  own  mind  or  expresses  his  own  thoughts 
when  he  is  but  the  echo  of  some  man  he  just  parted 
with.  He  is  bearable*  for  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  but 
a   moment  after  he  flags,  degenerates,   loses  the  little 


^  The  "two  brothers"  are  said  to  have  been  the  counsellors  of  the 
parliament,  Claude  and  Michel  le  Peletier,  and  the  quarrel  was  about  a 
question  of  precedence. 

2  The  "  two  ministers  "  were  Louvois  and  de  Seignelay,  a  son  of  Colbert, 
and  the  chief  cause  of  their  falling  out  seems  to  have  been  the  more  or  less 
assistance  which  should  be  given  to  James  II.  against  England. 

3  Menippus  is  the  Marshal  Frangoisde  Villeroy  (i644-i7;jo),  the  favourite 
of  the  king  and  of  Mademoiselle  de  Maintenon,  only  known  as  a  perfect 
courtier  when  La  Bruyere  published  his  book,  but  who  later  on  proved  him- 
self an  incapable  general.  In  the  Mimoires  of  the  Duke  de  Saint-Simon,  he 
is  called  glorieux  a  Vexces  par  nature.  See  also  page  43,  note  i.  Some 
commentators  say  Menippus  was  the  Marquis  de  Cavoye  (1640-1716),  one  of 
the  handsomest  men  and  one  of  the  greatest  duellists  of  the  court. 

4  The  original  has  de  mise,  which  was  also  used  by  Voltaire  and  Rousseau, 
but  seems  now  to  have  become  antiquated. 


OF    PERSONAL   MERIT.  55 

polish  his  shallow  memory'  gives  him,  and  shows  he  has 
nothing  more  left.^  He  alone  ignores  how  very  far  he 
is  from  the  sublime  a^d  the  heroic ;  and  having  no  idea 
of  the  extent  of  his  intelligence,  ingenuously  believes  that 
he  possesses  as  much  as  it  is  possible  for  any  man  to 
have,  and  accordingly  assumes  the  air  and  manners  of 
one  who  has  nothing  more  to  wish  for  nor  to  envy  any 
one.  He  often  soliloquises,  and  so  little  conceals  it, 
that  the  passers-by  see  him  and  think  he  is  always 
making  up  his  mind,  or  is  finally  deciding  some  matter 
or  other.  If  you  bow  to  him  at  a  certain  time,  you 
perplex  him  as  to  whether  he  has  to  return  the  bow  or 
not ;  and,  whilst  he  is  deliberating,  you  are  already  out 
of  his  sight.  His  vanity,  which  has  made  him  a  gentle- 
man, has  raised  him  above  himself,  and  made  him  what 
naturally  he  is  not.  When  you  behold  him,  you  can 
judge  he  has  nothing  to  do  but  to  survey  himself,  so 
that  he  may  perceive  everything  he  wears  suits  him,  and 
that  his  dress  is  not  incongruous  ;  he  fancies  all  men's 
eyes  are  upon  him,  and  that  people  come  to  look  on  him 
one  after  another. 

(41.)  A  man  who  has  a  palace  of  his  own,  with  apart- 
ments for  the  summer  and  the  winter  season,  and  yet 
sleeps  in  an  entresol  in  the  Louvre,^  does  not  act  thus 
through  modesty  ;  another,  who,  to  preserve  his  elegant 
shape,  abstains  from  wine  and  eats  but  one  meal  a  day,  is 
neither  sober  nor  temperate ;  whilst  it  may  be  said  of  a 
third,  who,  importuned  by  some  poor  friend,  finally  ren- 
ders him  some  assistance,  that  he  buys  his  tranquillity, 

1  Montre  la  corde  in  the  original.  . 

2  When  the  "  Characters"  first  made  their  appearance  in  1689,  Louis  XIV. 
no  longer  resided  in  the  Louvre,  but  at  Versailles.  The  greatest  nobles,  in 
order  to  pay  their  court  to  the  king,  lodged  in  some  wretched  rooms  in  the 
palace. 


56  OF   PERSONAL   MERIT. 

but  by  no  means  that  he  is  liberal.  It  is  the  motive 
alone  that  gives  merit  to  human  actions,  and  disinter- 
estedness perfects  them. 

(42.)  False  greatness  is  unsociable  and  inaccessible  ; 

as  it  is  sensible  of  its  weakness,  it  conceals  itself,  or  at 

least  does  not  show  itself  openly,  and  only  allows  just 

so  much  to  be  seen  as  will  carry  on  the  deceit,  so  as  not 

to  appear  what  it  really  is,  namely,  undoubtedly  mean. 

True  greatness,  on  the  contrary,  is  free,  gentle,  familiar, 

and  popular  ;  it  allows  itself  to  be  touched  and  handled, 

loses  nothing  by  being  seen  closely,  and  is  the  more 

admired  the  better  it  is  known.     Out  of  kindness  it  stoops 

to  inferiors,  and  recovers, without  effort,  its  true  character; 

sometimes  it  unbends,  becomes  negligent,  lays  aside  all 

its  superiority,  yet  never  loses  the  power  of  resuming  it 

and  of  maintaining  it ;  amidst  laughter,  gambols,  and 

jocularity  it  preserves  its  dignity,  and  we  approach  it 

freely,  and  yet  with  some  diffidence.      It  is  noble,  yet 

sympathetic,  whilst  inspiring  respect  and  confidence,  and 

makes  us  view  princes  as  of  lofty,  nay,  of  very  lofty  rank, 

without  making  us  feel  that  we  are  of  inferior  condition.! 

(43.)  A  wise  man  is  cured  of  ambition  by  ambitioa 

itself ;  his  aim  is  so  exalted  that  riches,  office,  fortune,  and 

favour  cannot  satisfy  him.      He  sees  nothing  good  and 

sufficiently  efficient  in  such  a  poor  superiority  to  engage  his 

affections  and  to  render  it  deserving  of  his  cares  and  his 

desires ;  he  has  to  use  some  effort  not  to  despise  it  too 

much.     The  only  thing  that  might  tempt  him  is  that  kind 

of  honour  which  should  attend  a  whollypure  and  unaffected 

virtue;  but  men  but  rarely  grant  it,  so  he  does  without  it. 

1  The  first  part  of  this  paragraph,  referring  to  "false  greatness,"  is  said 
to  apply  to  the  Marshal  de  Villeroy  ;  the  second,  alluding  to  "  true  great- 
ness," to  Marshal  Turenne  (1611-1675). 


OF    PERSONAL   MERIT.  57 

(44.)  A  man  is  good  who  benefits  others  :  if  he  suffers 
for  the  good  he  does,  he  is  still  better  ;  and  if  he  suffers 
through  those  to  whom  he  did  good,  he  has  arrived  at 
such  a  height  of  perfection  that  nothing  but  an  increase 
of  his  sufferings  can  add  to  it  ;  if  he  dies  through 
them,  his  virtue  cannot  stand  higher  ;  it  is  heroic,  it  is 
complete. 


IV. 

OF  WOMEN. 

(i.)  n^HE  male  and  female  sex  seldom  agree  about 
the  merits  of  a  woman,  as  their  interests  vary- 
too  much.  Women  do  not  like  those  same  charms  in 
one  another  which  render  them  agreeable  to  men : 
many  ways  and  means  which  kindle  in  the  latter  the 
greatest  passions,  raise  among  them  aversion  and  anti- 
pathy. 


OF  WOMEN.  59 

(2.)  There  exists  among  some  women  an  artificial 
grandeur  depending  on  a  certain  way  of  moving  their 
eyes,  tossing  their  heads,  and  on  their  manner  of  walking, 
which  does  not  go  farther  ;  it  is  like  a  dazzling  wit  which 
is  deceptive,  and  is  only  admired  because  it  is  super- 
ficial. In  a  few  others  is  to  be  found  an  ingenuous, 
natural  greatness,  not  beholden  to  gestures  and  motion, 
which  springs  from  the  heart,  and  is,  as  it  were,  the 
result  of  their  noble  birth  ;  their  merit,  as  unruffled  as  it 
is  efficient,  is  accompanied  by  a  thousand  virtues,  which, 
in  spite  of  all  their  modesty,  break  out  and  display 
themselves  to  all  who  can  discern  them. 

(3.)  I  have  heard  some  people  say  they  should  like  to 
be  a  girl,  and  a  handsome  girl,  too,  from  thirteen  to  two- 
and-twenty,  and  after  that  age  again  to  become  a  man. 

(4.)  Some  young  ladies  are  not  sensible  of  the  ad- 
vantages of  a  happy  disposition,  and  how  beneficial  it 
would  be  to  them  to  give  themselves  up  to  it ;  they 
enfeeble  these  rare  and  fragile  gifts  which  Heaven  has 
given  them  by  affectation  and  by  bad  imitation  ;  their 
very  voice  and  gait  are  affected ;  they  fashion  their 
looks,  adorn  themselves,  consult  their  looking-glasses  to 
see  whether  they  have  sufficiently  changed  their  own 
natural  appearance,  and  take  some  trouble  to  make 
themselves  less  agreeable. 

(5.)  For  a  woman  to  paint  herself  red  or  white  is,  I 
admit,  a  smaller  crime  than  to  say  one  thing  and  think 
another  ;  it  is  also  something  less  innocent  than  to  dis- 
guise herself  or  to  go  masquerading,  if  she  does  not 
pretend  to  pass  for  what  she  seems  to  be,  but  only  thinks 
of  concealing  her  personality  and  of  remaining  unknown  ; 
it  is  an  endeavour  to  deceive  the  eyes,  to  wish  to  appear 
outwardly  what  she  is  not ;  it  is  a  kind  of  "  white  lie." 


6o  OF   WOMEN. 

We  should  judge  of  a  woman  without  taking  into 
account  her  shoes  and  head-dress,  and,  almost  as  we 
measure  a  fish,  from  head  to  tail.^ 

(6,)  If  it  be  the  ambition  of  women  only  to  appear 
handsome  in  their  own  eyes  and  to  please  themselves, 
they  are,  no  doubt,  right  in  following  their  own  tastes 
and  fancies  as  to  how  they  should  beautify  themselves, 
as  well  as  in  choosing  their  dress  and  ornaments ;  but 
if  they  desire  to  please  men,  if  it  is  for  them  they 
paint  and  besmear  themselves,  I  can  tell  them  that 
all  men,  or  nearly  all,  have  agreed  that  white  and  red 
paint  makes  them  look  hideous  and  frightful ;  that  red 
paint  alone  ages  and  disguises  them,  and  that  these  men 
hate  as  much  to  see  white  lead  on  their  countenances  as  to 
see  false  teeth  in  their  mouths  or  balls  of  wax  to  plump 
out  their  cheeks ;  ^  that  they  solemnly  protest  against 
all  artifices  women  employ  to  make  themselves  look 
ugly  ;  that  they  are  not  responsible  for  it  to  Heaven,  but, 
on  the  contrary,  that  it  seems  the  last  and  infallible 
means  to  reclaim  men  from  loving  them. 

If  women  were  by  nature  what  they  make  themselves 
by  art ;  if  they  were  to  lose  suddenly  all  the  freshness 
of  their  complexion,  and  their  faces  to  become  as  fiery 
and  as  leaden  as  they  make  them  with  the  red  and  the 
paint  they  besmear  themselves  with,  they  would  consider 
themselves  the  most  wretched  creatures  on  earth. 

(7.)  A  coquette  is  a  woman  who  never  yields  to  the 

'  An  allusion  to  a  fashion  of  the  time  La  Bruyere  wrote,  when  the  ladies 
wore  shoes  with  very  high  heels  and  enormous  head-dresses,  called  Fon- 
tanges;  the  latter  were  invented  by  Marie-Angdique  Scoraille  de  Roussille, 
Duchesse  de  Fontanges  (i66i-i68i),  who  was  one  of  the  mistresses  of 
Louis  XIV.     Our  author  refers  to  them  in  his  chapter  "  Of  Fashion,"  §  12. 

2  Some  of  the  ladies  at  court,  in  order  to  hide  the  hollowness  of  their 
cheeks,  used,  it  is  said,  to  hold  small  balls  of  wax  in  their  mouths. 


OF   WOMEN.  6 1 

passion  she  has  for  pleasing,  nor  to  the  good  opinion 
she  entertains  of  her  own  beauty  ;  she  regards  time  and 
years  only  as  things  that  wrinkle  and  disfigure  other 
women,  and  forgets  that  age  is  written  on  her  face.  The 
same  dress,  which  formerly  enhanced  her  beauty  when 
she  was  young,  now  disfigures  her,  and  shows  the  more 
the  defects  of  old  age  ;  winning  manners  and  affectation 
cling  to  her  even  in  sorrow  and  sickness ;  she  dies 
dressed  in  her  best,  and  adorned  with  gay-coloured 
ribbons. 

(8.)  Lise  ^  hears  that  people  make  fun  of  some 
coquette  for  pretending  to  be  young  and  for  wearing 
dresses  which  no  longer  suit  a  woman  of  forty.  Lise 
is  as  old  as  that,  but  years  for  her  have  less  than  twelve 
month's ;  nor  do  they  add  to  her  age  ;  she  thinks  so,  and 
whilst  she  looks  in  the  glass,  lays  the  red  on  her  face  and 
sticks  on  the  patches,  confesses  there  is  a  time  of  life 
when  it  is  not  decent  to  affect  a  youthful  appearance, 
and,  indeed,  that  Clarissa  with  her  paint  and  patches 
is  ridiculous. 

(9.)  Women  make  preparations  to  receive  their  lovers, 
but  if  they  are  surprised  by  them,  they  forget  in  what 
sort  of  dress  they  are,  and  no  longer  think  of  themselves. 
They  are  in  no  such  confusion  with  people  for  whom 
they  do  not  care ;  they  perceive  that  they  are  not  well 
dressed,  bedizen  themselves  in  their  presence,  or  else 
disappear  for  a  moment  and  return  beautifully  arrayed. 

(10.)  A  handsome  face  is  the  finest  of  all  sights,  and 


1  Lise  is  generally  supposed  to  have  been  Catherine-Henriette  d'An- 
gennes  de  la  Loupe,  Countess  d'OIonne,  one  of  the  most  dissolute  ladies  of 
the  court  of  Louis  XIV.,  who  was  fifty-five  years  old  when  this  paragraph 
appeared  (1692),  and  died  in  1714.  Many  particulars  about  her  are  related 
in  Bussy-Rabutin's  Histoire  amoureuse  des  Gaules. 


62  OF   WOMEN. 

the  sweetest  music  is  the  sound  of  the  voice  of  the 
woman  we  love. 

(ii.)  Fascination  is  despotic;  beauty  is  something 
more  tangible  and  independent  of  opinion. 

(i2.)  A  man  can  feel  his  heart  touched  by  certain 
women  of  such  perfect  beauty  and  such  transcendent 
merit  that  he  is  satisfied  with  only  seeing  them  and  con- 
versing with  them. 

(13.)  A  handsome  woman,  who  possesses  also  the 
qualities  of  a  man  of  culture,  is  the  most  agreeable 
acquaintance  a  man  can  have,  for  she  unites  the  merits 
of  both  sexes. 

(14.)  A  young  lady  accidentally  says  many  little 
things  which  are  clearly  convincing,  and  greatly  flatter 
those  to  whom  they  are  addressed.  Men  say  almost 
nothing  accidentally ;  their  endearments  are  premedi- 
tated ;  they  speak,  act,  and  are  eager  to  please,  but 
convince  less. 

(15.)  Handsome  women  are  more  or  less  whimsical ; 
those  whims  serve  as  an  antidote,  so  that  their  beauty 
may  do  less  harm  to  men,  who,  without  such  a  remedy, 
would  never  be  cured  of  their  love. 

(16.)  Women  become  attached  to  men  through  the 
favours  they  grant  them,  but  men  are  cured  of  their  love 
through  those  same  favours. 

(17.)  When  a  woman  no  longer  loves  a  man,  she  for- 
gets the  very  favours  she  has  granted  him. 

(18.)  A  woman  with  one  gallant  thinks  she  is  no 
coquette ;  she  who  has  several  thinks  herself  but  a 
coquette. 

A  woman  avoids  being  a  coquette  if  she  steadfastly 
loves  a  certain  person,  but  she  is  not  thought  sane  if 
she  persists  in  a  bad  choice. 


OF    WOMEN.  63 

(19.)  A  former  gallant  is  of  so  little  consideration 
that  he  must  give  way  to  a  new  husband  ;  and  the  latter 
lasts  so  short  a  time  that  a  fresh  gallant  turns  him  out. 

A  former  gallant  either  fears  or  despises  a  new  rival, 
according  to  the  character  of  the  lady  to  whom  he  pays 
his  addresses. 

Often  a  former  gallant  wants  nothing  but  the  name  to 
be  the  husband  of  the  woman  he  loves  ;  if  It  was  not  for 
this  circumstance  he  would  have  been  dismissed  a  thou- 
sand times. 

(20.)  Gallantry  in  a  woman  seems  to  add  to  coquetry. 
A  male  coquette,  on  the  contrary,  is  something  worse 
than  a  gallant  A  male  coquette  and  a  woman  of  gal- 
lantry are  pretty  much  on  a  level 

(21.)  Few  intrigues  are  secret;  many  women  are  not 
better  known  by  their  husbands'  names  than  they  are  by 
the  names  of  their  gallants. 

(22.)  A  woman  of  gallantry  strongly  desires  to  be 
loved  ;  it  is  enough  for  a  coquette  to  be  thought  amiable 
and  to  be  considered  handsome.  This  one  seeks  to  form 
an  engagement ;  that  one  is  satisfied  with  pleasing.  The 
first  passes  successively  from  one  engagement  to  another  ; 
the  second  has  at  one  and  the  same  time  a  great  many 
amusements  on  her  hands.  Passion  and  pleasure  are 
predominant  in  the  first ;  vanity  and  levity  in  the  second. 
Gallantry  is  a  weakness  of  the  heart,  or  perhaps  a  constitu- 
tional defect ;  coquetry  is  an  irregularity  of  the  mind.  A 
woman  of  gallantry  is  feared  ;  a  coquette  is  hated.  From 
two  such  characters  might  be  formed  a  third  worse  than  any. 
(23.)  A  weak  woman  is  one  who  is  blamed  for  a  fault 
for  which  she  blames  herself;  whose  feelings  are  strug- 
gling with  reason,  and  who  should  like  to  be  cured  of  her 
folly,  but  is  never  cured,  or  not  till  very  late  in  life. 


64  OF   WOMEN. 

(24.)  An  inconstant  woman  is  one  who  is  no  longer 
in  love ;  a  giddy  woman  is  one  who  is  already  in  love 
with  another  person  ;  a  flighty  woman  neither  knows  if 
she  loves  or  whom  she  loves  ;  and  an  indifferent  woman 
is  one  who  loves  nobody. 

(25.)  Treachery,  if  I  may  say  so,  is  a  falsehood  told 
by  the  whole  body  ;  in  a  woman  it  is  the  art  of  arranging 
words  or  actrons  for  the  purpose  of  deceiving  us,  and 
sometimes  of  making  use  of  vows  and  promises  which  it 
costs  her  no  more  to  break  than  it  did  to  make. 

A  faithless  woman,  if  known  to  be  such  by  the  person 
concerned,  is  but  faithless  ;  if  she  is  believed  faithful, 
she  is  treacherous. 

The  benefit  we  obtain  from  the  perfidy  of  women  is 
that  it  cures  us  of  jealousy. 

(26.)  Some  women  in  their  lifetime  have  a  double 
engagement  to  keep,  which  it  is  as  difScult  to  violate  as 
to  conceal ;  in  the  one  nothing  is  wanting  but  a  legal 
consecration,  and  in  the  other  nothing  but  the  heart. 

(27.)  If  we  were  to  judge  of  a  certain  woman  by  her 
beauty,  her  youth,  her  pride,  and  her  haughtiness,  we 
could  almost  assert  that  none  but  a  hero  would  one  day 
win  her.  She  has  chosen  to  fall  in  love  with  a  little 
monster  deficient  in  intelligence.^ 

(28.)  There  are  some  women  past  their  prime,  who, 
on  account  of  their  constitution  or  bad  disposition,  are 
naturally  the  resource  of  young  men  not  possessing 
sufficient  wealth.  I  do  not  know  who  is  more  to  be 
pitied,  either  a  woman  in  years  who  needs  a  young  man, 
or  a  young  man  who  needs  an  old  woman. ^ 

1  This  is  said  to  allude  to  a  certain  Mademoiselle  de  Loines,  who  fell  in 
love  with  a  crooked,  ill-looking,  dwarfish  limb  of  the  law. 
^  The  memoirs  of  the  time  of  Louis  XIV.  teem  with  examples  of  young 


OF   WOMEN.  65 

(2^.)  A  man  who  is  looked  upon  with  contempt  at 
court,  is  received  amongst  fashionable  people  ^  in  the 
city,  where  he  triumphs  over  a  magistrate  in  all  his 
finer)',2  as  well  as  over  a  citizen  wearing  a  sword ;  he 
beats  them  all  out  of  the  field  and  becomes  master  of 
the  situation  ;  he  is  treated  with  consideration  and  is 
beloved  ;  there  is  no  resisting  for  long  a  man  wearing  a 
gold-embroidered  scarfs  and  white  plumes  ;  a  man  who 
talks  to  the  king  and  visits  the  ministers.  He  kindles 
jealousy  amongst  men  as  well  as  amongst  women  ;  he 
is  admired  and  envied  ;  but  in  Versailles,  four  leagues 
from  Paris,  he  is  despised.* 

(30.)  A  citizen  is  to  a  woman  who  has  never  left  her 
native  province  what  a  courtier  is  to  a  woman  born  and 
bred  in  town. 

(31.)  A  man  who  is  vain,  indiscreet,  a  great  talker 
and  a  mischievous  wag,  who  speaks  arrogantly  of  him- 
self and  contemptuously  of  others,  who  is  boisterous, 
haughty,  forward,  without  morality,  honesty,  or  common- 
sense,  and  who  draws  for  facts  on  his  imagination,  wants 


men  of  the  highest  families  who  considered  it  no  disgrace  to  live  at  the  ex- 
pense of  rich  and  amorous  old  crones,  and  even  to  receive  money  from  young 
ladies. 

1  The  originnl  has  dans  une  melle.  Ruelle  means  literally  "a  small 
street,''  hence  the  narrow  opening  between  the  wall  and  the  bed,  011  which 
bed  superfine  ladies,  gaily  dressed,  were  lying  when  they  received  their 
friends,  and  thus  ruelle  came  to  mean  "any  fashionable  assembly."  In 
Dr.  Ash's  "  Dict'onary  of  the  English  Language,"  London,  1755,  ruelle  is 
still  defined  "a  little  street,  a  circle,  an  assembly  at  a  private  house." 

2  En  cravate  et  en  habit  gris,  says  the  French,  which  was  the  usual  dress 
of  dandified  magistrates,  aUhough  tliey  were  strictly  forbidden  to  wear  any 
other  clothes  but  black  ones. 

3  Only  officers  of  the  king's  household  were  allowed  to  wear  gold-em- 
broidered scarfs. 

*  This  alludes  to  the  Count  d'Aubigne,  a  brother  of  Madame  de  Main- 
tenon,  who  was  no  favourite  at  court.  See  also  the  portrait  of"  Thecdectts  " 
in  the  chapter  "  Of  Society  and  Conversation,"  §  12,  page  106. 

E 


66  OF    WOMEN. 

nothing  else,  to  be  adored  by  many  women,  but  hand- 
some features  and  a  good  shape. 

(32.)  Is  it  for  the  sake  of  secrecy,  or  from  some 
eccentricity,  that  a  certain  lady  loves  her  footman  and 
Dorinna  her  physician  ?  ^ 

(33.)  Roscius  treads  the  stage  with  admirable  grace  : 
yes,  Lelia,  so  he  does  ;  and  I  will  allow  you,  too,  that  his 
limbs  are  well  shaped,  that  he  acts  well,  and  very  long 
parts,  and  that  to  recite  perfectly  he  wants  nothing  else, 
as  they  say,  but  to  open  his  mouth.  But  is  he  the 
only  actor  who  is  charming  in  everything  he  does  ?  or  is 
his  profession  the  noblest  and  most  honourable  in  the 
world  ?  Moreover,  Roscius  cannot  be  yours  ;  he  is  an- 
other's, or,  if  he  were  not,  he  is  pre-engaged.  Claudia 
waits  for  him  till  he  is  satiated  with  Messalina.  Take 
Bathyllus,  then,  Lelia.  Where  will  you  find,  I  do  not  say 
among  the  knights  you  despise,  but  among  the  very 
players,  one  to  compare  with  him  in  rising  so  high  whilst 
dancing  or  in  cutting  capers  ?  Or  what  do  you  think 
of  Cobus,  the  tumbler,  who,  throwing  his  feet  forward, 
whirls  himself  quite  round  in  the  air  before  he  lights  on 
the  ground  ?  But,  perhaps,  you  know  that  he  is  no 
longer  young  ?  As  for  Bathyllus,  you  will  say,  the 
crowd  round  him  is  still  too  great,  and  he  refuses  more 
ladies  than  he  gratifies.  Well,  you  can  have  Draco, 
the  flute-player ;  none  of  all  his  profession  swells  his 
cheeks  with  so  much  decency  as  he  does  whilst  playing 
on  the  hautboy  or  the  flageolet ;  for  he  can  play  on  a 
great  number  of  instruments  ;  and  he  is  so  comical  that 


1  The  "lady  "  is  said  to  have  been  Madame  de  la  Ferriere,  the  wife  of  a 
7nattre  des  requites,  and  Dorinna  a  certain  Mdlle.  Foucault,  a  relative 
of  some  well-known  conseiller  au  Jiarlement,  who  was  in  love  with  a 
Doctor  Moreau. 


OF   WOMEN.  67 

he  makes  even  children  and  young  women  laugh.  Who 
eats  or  drinks  more  at  a  meal  than  Draco  ?  He  makes 
the  whole  company  intoxicated,  and  is  the  last  to  remain 
comparatively  sober.  You  sigh,  Lelia.  Is  it  because 
Draco  has  already  made  his  choice,  or  because,  un- 
fortunately, you  have  been  forestalled  ?  Is  he  at  last 
engaged  to  Cesonia,  who  has  so  long  pursued  him,  and 
who  has  sacrificed  for  him  such  a  large  number  of 
lovers,  I  might  even  say,  the  entire  flower  of  Rome  ?  to 
Cesonia,  herself  belonging  to  a  patrician  family,  so  young, 
so  handsome,  and  of  so  noble  a  mien  ?  I  pity  you, 
Lelia,  if  you  have  been  infected  with  this  new  fancy 
which  possesses  so  many  Roman  ladies  for  what  are 
called  public  men,  whose  calling  exposes  them  to  the 
public  gaze.  What  course  will  you  pursue,  then,  since 
the  best  of  their  kind  are  already  engaged  ?  However, 
Brontes,  the  executioner,^  is  still  left  ;  everybody  speaks 
of  his  strength  and  his  skill ;  he  is  young,  broad- 
shouldered  and  brawny,  and,  moreover,  a  negro,  a  black 
man.^ 

(34.)  A  woman  of  fashion  looks  on  a  gardener  as  a 
gardener,  and  on  a  mason  as  a  mason  ;  but  other  women, 

1  The  original  has  questionnaire,  a  word  then  already  antiquated,  and 
which  meant  a  man  applying  the  question  or  rack. 

*  Roscius  seems  to  have  been  intended  for  a  portrait  of  the  celebrated 
actor  Michael  Baron  (1653-1729),  whilst  the  names  of  Lelia,  Cesonia,  Claudia, 
and  Messalina  probably  allude  to  some  of  the  ladies  of  the  court  who 
intrigued  with  actors.  During  the  eighteenth  century  the  names  of  the 
Marechale  de  la  Ferte,  and  of  her  sister  the  Countess  d'Olonne  (see  page 
61,  note),  both  of  very  dissolute  manners,  were  mentioned  as  having  been 
the  originals  of  Claudia  and  Messalina,  whilst  Claudia  was  also,  according 
to  some,  a  portrait  of  Marie-Anne  Mancini,  Duchesse  de  Bouillon,  though 
it  is  not  probable  that  La  Bruyere  intended  to  allude  to  her.  ^athyllus  and 
Cobus  stand  for  Le  Basque,  Pecourt,  or  Beauchamps,  dancers  at  the 
Opera  ;  Draco  is  Philibert,  a  German  flute-player  of  those  times  ;  Lelia  or 
Cesonia  are  supposed  to  have  been  a  certain  widow  of  the  Marquis  de 
Constantin. 


68  OF   WOMEN. 

who  live  more  secluded,  look  upon  a  mason  and  a 
gardener  as  men.  Anything  is  a  temptation  to  those 
who  dread  it.^ 

(35-)  Some  ladies  are^  liberal  to  the  Church  as  well 
as  to  their  lovers  ;  and  being  both  gallant  and  charit- 
able, are  provided  with  seats  and  oratories  within  the 
rails  of  the  altar,  where  they  can  read  their  love-letters, 
and  where  no  one  can  see  whether  they  are, saying  their 
prayers  or  not. 

(36.)  What  kind  of  a  woman  is  one  who  is  "  spiri- 
tually directed"  ?  Is  she  more  obhging  to  her  husband, 
kinder  to  her  servants,  more  careful  of  her  family  and 
her  household,  more  zealous  and  sincere  for  her  friends  ? 
is  she  less  swayed  by  whims,  less  governed  by  interest, 
and  less  fond  of  her  ease  ?  I  do  not  ask  if  she  makes 
presents  fo  her  children  who  already  are  opulent,  but 
if,  having  wealth  enough  and  to  spare,  she  provides 
them  with  the  necessaries  of  life,  and,  at  least,  gives 
them  what  is  their  due  ?  Is  she  more  exempt  from 
egotism,  does  she  dislike  others  less,  and  has  she  fewer 
worldly  affections  ?  "  No,"  say  you,  "  none  of  all  those 
things."  I  repeat  my  question  again  :  "  What  kind  of  a 
woman  is  one  who  is  '  spiritually  directed  '  ?  "  "  Oh  !  I 
understand  you  now ;  she  is  a  woman  who  has  a 
spiritual  director."  '■^ 


1  Is  this  not  an  allusion  of  our  author  to  some  nunneries  not  in  very 
good  repute  at  the  time? 

2  This  applies,  it  is  said,  to  the  Marechale  de  la  Ferte,  mentioned  on  page 
67,  note  2,  and  to  the  Duke  d'Aumonl's  second  wife,  who  died  in  171 1,  sixty- 
one  years  old. 

3  At  the  time  La  Bruyere  wro.e,  nearly  every  fashionable  lady  had,  be- 
sides her  father-confessor,  a  spiritual  director,  who  was  her  "guide,  philo- 
sopher, and  friend."     Boileau,  in  his  tenth  satire,  says  : — 

"  Mais  de  tous  les  mortels,  grace  aux  devotes  ames, 
Nul  n'est  si  bien  soigne  qu'un  directeur  de  femmes." 


OF    WOMEN.  69 

(37.)  If  a  father-confessor  and  a  spiritual  director 
cannot  agree  about  their  line  of  conduct,  what  third  per- 
son shall  a  woman  take  to  be  arbitrator  ? 

(38.)  It  is  not  essential  that  a  woman  should  provide 
herself  with  a  spiritual  director,  but  she  should  lead  such 
a  regular  life  as  not  to  need  one. 

(39.)  If  a  woman  should  tell  her  father-confessor, 
among  her  other  weaknesses,  those  which  she  has  for 
her  director,  and  the  times  she  wastes  in  his  company, 
perhaps  she  might  be  enjoined  as  a  penance  to  leave 
him. 

(40.)  Would  I  had  the  liberty  of  shouting,  as  loud 
as  I  could,  to  those  holy  men  who  formerly  suffered  by 
women  :  "  Flee  from  women;  do  not  become  their  spiritual 
directors,  but  let  others  take  care  of  their  salvation  ! " 

(41.)  It  is  too  much  for  a  husband  to  have  a  wife 
who  is  a  coquette  and  sanctimonious  as  well ;  she  should 
select  only  one  of  those  qualities. 

(42.)  I  have  deferred  it  for  a  long  time,  but  after 
all  I  have  suffered  it  must  come  out  at  last ;  and  I 
hope  my  frankness  may  be  of  some  service  to  those 
ladies  who,  not  deeming  one  confessor  sufficient  to 
guide  them,  show  no  discrimination  in  the  choice  of 
their  directors.  I  cannot  help  admiring  and  being 
amazed  on  beholding  some  people  who  shall  be  name- 
less ;  I  open  my  eyes  wide  when  I  see  them  ;  I  gaze 
on  them  ;  they  speak  and  I  listen  ;  then  I  inquire,  and 
am  told  certain  things,  which  I  do  not  forget.  I  cannot 
understand  how  people,  who  appear  to  me  the  very 
reverse  of  intelligent,  sensible,  or  experienced,  and 
without  any  knowledge  of  mankind,  or  any  study  of 
religion  and  morality,  can  presume  that  Heaven,  at 
the  present  time,  should  renew  the  marvels  of  an  apos- 


70  OF   WOMEN. 

tolate,  and  perform  a  miracle  on  them,  in  rendering 
such  simple  and  Httle  minds  fit  for  the  ministry  of  souls, 
the  most  difficult  and  most  sublime  of  all  vocations. 
It  is  to  me  still  more  incomprehensible  if,  on  the  con- 
trary, they  fancy  themselves  predestined  to  fill  a  function 
so  noble  and  so  difficult,  and  for  which  but  few  people 
are  qualified,  and  persuade  themselves  that  in  under- 
taking it  they  do  but  exercise  their  natural  talents  and 
follow  an  ordinary  vocation. 

I  perceive  that  an  inclination  of  being  intrusted  with 
family  secrets,  of  being  useful  in  bringing  about  recon- 
ciliations, of  obtaining  various  appointments,  or  of  pro- 
curing places  to  people,!  of  finding  all  doors  of  noble- 
men's houses  open,  of  eating  frequently  at  good  tables, 
of  driving  about  the  town  in  private  carriages,  of 
making  pleasant  excursions  to  charming  country-seats, 
of  seeing  several  persons  of  rank  and  quality  concern 
themselves  about  our  life  and  health,  and  of  employing 
for  others  and  ourselves  every  worldly  interest, — I  per- 
ceive, I  say  so  again,  that  for  jhe  sake  of  those  things 
solely  has  been  invented  the  specious  and  inoffensive 
pretence  of  the  care  of  souls,  and  an  inexhaustible  nur- 
sery of  spiritual  directors  planted  in  this  world. 

(43.)  Devotion  ^  with  some  people,  but  especially  with 
women,  is  either  a  passion,  or  an  infirmity  of  age,  or  a 
fashion  which  must  be  followed.  Formerly  such  women 
divided  the  week  in  days  for  gambling,  for  going  to  a 
theatre,  a  concert,  a  fancy-dress  ball,  or  a  nice  sermon. 
On  Mondays  they  went  and  lost  their  money  at  Ismena's  ; 


1  Placer  des  domestiques,  in  the  original;  dotnestique  was  used  for  any 
person  belonging  to  the  household  of  some  great  nobleman,  even  if  he  were 
himself  a  noble  ;  it  also  meant  "a  household." 

2  A  note  of  La  Bruyere  says  that  this  refers  to  "assumed  piety." 


OF   WOMEN.  71 

on  Tuesdays  their  time  at  Climene's,  and  on  Wednesday 
their  reputation  at  Cdlim^ne's  ;  they  knew  overnight  what 
amusements  were  going  on  the  next  day,  and  the  day 
after  that ;  they  thus  enjoyed  the  present,  and  knew  what 
pleasures  were  in  store  for  them  ;  they  wished  it  were 
possible  to  unite  them  all  in  one  day,  for  this  was  then 
the  sole  cause  of  their  uneasiness  and  all  they  had  to 
think  about ;  and  if  they  sometimes  went  to  the  Opera, 
they  regretted  they  had  not  gone  to  any  other  theatre. 
But  with  other  times  came  other  manners  ;  now,  they 
exaggerate  their  austerity  and  their  solitude  ;  they  no 
longer  open  their  eyes,  which  were  given  them  to  see  ; 
they  do  not  make  any  use  of  their  senses,  and  what  is 
almost  incredible,  but  little  of  their  tongues  ;  and  yet  they 
think,  and  that  pretty  well  of  themselves  and  ill  enough 
of  others  ;  they  compete  with  each  other  in  virtue  and 
reformation  in  a  jealous  kind  of  way  ;  they  do  not  dislike 
being  first  in  their  new  course  of  life,  as  they  were  in 
the  career  they  lately  abandoned  out  of  policy  or  dis- 
gust. They  used  gaily  to  damn  themselves  through  their 
intrigues,  their  luxury  and  sloth,  and  now  their  presump- 
tion and  envy  will  damn  them,  though  not  so  merrily.^ 

(44.)  Hermas,  were  I  to  marry  a  stingy  woman,  she 
will  be  sure  not  to  ruin  me  ;  if  a  woman  fond  of  gambling, 
she  may  enrich  me ;  if  a  woman  fond  of  learning,  she 
may  teach  me  ;  or  if  prim  and  precise,  she  will  not  fly 
into  a  rage  ;  if  a  passionate  one,  she  will  exercise  my 
patience  ;  if  a  coquette,  she  will  endeavour  to  please  me  ; 
if  a  woman  of  gallantry,  she  will  perhaps  be  so  gallant 
as  to  love  me ;  but  tell  me,  Hermas,  what  can  I  expect 

1  Those  ladies  are  supposed  to  have  been  the  Duchesse  d'  Aumont,  already 
mentioned  ;  the  Countess  de  Lyonne,  the  wife  of  a  minister  of  state ;  the 
J^uclles^  de  Lesdiguieres,  and  the  Countess  de  Roucy. 


72  OF   WOMEN. 

if  I   were  to  marry  a  devout  woman  ^   who  would  de- 
ceive Heaven,  and  who  really  deceives  herself? 

(45.)  A  woman  is  easily  managed  if  a  man  will  only 
give  himself  the  trouble.  One  man  often  manages  a 
great  many ;  he  cultivates  their  understanding  and  their 
memory,  settles  and  determines  their  religious  feelings,  and 
undertakes  even  to  regulate  their  very  affections.  They 
neither  approve  nor  disapprove,  commend  or  condemn, 
till  they  have  consulted  his  looks  and  his  countenance. 
He  is  the  confidant  of  their  joys  and  of  their  sorrows, 
of  their  desires,  jealousies,  hatred,  and  love  ;  he  makes 
them  break  with  their  gallants,  embroils  and  reconciles 
them  with  their  husbands,  and  is  useful  during  the 
intervals.  He  looks  after  their  business,  solicits  for 
them  when  they  have  lawsuits,  and  goes  and  sees  the 
judges  ;  ^  he  recommends  them  his  physician,  his  trades- 
men, his  workmen  ;  he  tries  to  find  them  a  residence, 
to  furnish  it,  and  he  orders  also  their  carriages.  He  is 
seen  with  them  when  they  drive  about  in  the  streets, 
and  during  their  walks,  as  well  as  in  their  pew  at  church 
and  their  box  at  the  theatre  ;  he  goes  the  same  round 
of  visits  as  they  do,  and  attends  on  them  when  they  go 
to  the  baths,  to  watering-places,  and  on  their  travels  ; 
he  has  the  most  comfortable  apartment  at  their  country- 
seat.  He  grows  old,  but  his  authority  does  not  decline  ; 
a  small  amount  of  intelligence  and  the  spending  of  a 
good  deal  of  leisure  time  suffice  to  preserve  it ;  the  chil- 
dren, the  heirs,  the  daughter-in-law,  the  niece,  and  the 
servants,  are  all  dependent  on  him.  He  began  by 
making  himself  esteemed,  and  ends  by  making  himself 

1  Our  author's  note  says,   "  A  pretended  pious  woman." 

2  It  was  then  the  custom  for  people  who  had  a  lawsuit  to  go  and  solicit 
their  judges  in  person. 


OF    WOMEN.  73 

feared.  This  old  and  necessary  friend  dies  at  last  with- 
out being  regretted,  and  about  half  a  score  of  women  he 
tyrannised  over  recover  their  liberty  at  his  death. 

(46.)  Some  women  have  endeavoured  to  conceal  their 
conduct  under  a  modest  exterior  ;  but  the  most  any  one 
of  them  has  obtained  by  the  closest  and  most  constant 
dissimulation  has  been  to  have  it  said,  "  One  would 
have  taken  her  for  a  Vestal  virgin." 

(47.)  It  is  a  proof  positive  that  a  woman  has  an  un- 
stained and  established  reputation  if  it  is  not  even 
sullied  by  the  familiar  intercourse  with  some  ladies  who 
;ire  unlike  her,  and  if,  with  all  the  inclination  people 
have  to  make  slanderous  observations,  they  ascribe  a 
totally  different  reason  to  this  intimacy  than  similarity  of 
morals. 

(48.)  An  actor  overdoes  his  part  when  on  the  stage  ; 
a  poet  amplifies  his  descriptions  ;  an  artist  who  draws 
from  life  heightens  and  exaggerates  passions,  contrasts, 
and  attitudes  ;  and  he  who  copies  him,  unless  he  mea- 
sures with  a  pair  of  compasses  the  dimensions  and  the 
proportions,  will  make  his  figures  too  big,  and  all  parts 
of  the  composition  of  his  picture  by  far  larger  than  they 
were  in  the  original.  Thus  an  imitation  of  sagacity 
becomes  pretentious  affectation. 

There  is  a  pretended  modesty  which  is  vanity,  a  pre 
tended  glory  which  is  levity,  a  pretended  grandeur  which 
is  meanness,  a  pretended  virtue  which  is  hypocrisy,  and 
a  pretended  wisdom  which  is  affectation. 

An  affected  and  pretentious  woman  is  all  deportment 
and  words  ;  a  sensible  woman  shows  her  sense  by  her 
behaviour.  This  one  follows  her  inclination  and  dis- 
position, that  one  her  reason  and  her  affections  ;  the  one 
is  formal  and  austere,  the  other  is  on  all  occasions  exactly 


74  OF   WOMEN. 

what  she  ought  to  be.  The  first  hides  her  weaknesses 
underneath  a  plausible  outside ;  the  second  conceals  a 
rich  store  of  virtue  underneath  a  free  and  natural  air. 
Affectation  and  pretension  shackle  the  mind,  yet  do  not 
veil  age  or  ugliness,  but  often  imply  them  ;  common-sense, 
on  the  contrary,  palliates  the  imperfections  of  the  body, 
ennobles  the  mind,  gives  fresh  charms  to  youth,  and 
makes  beauty  more  dangerous. 

(49.)  Why  should  men  be  blamed  because  women  are 
not  learned?  What  laws,  edicts,  or  regulations  prohibit 
them  from  opening  their  eyes,  from  reading  and  remem- 
bering what  they  have  read,  and  from  introducing  this  in 
their  conversation  and  in  their  writings  ?  Is  their  ignor- 
ance, on  the  contrary,  not  owing  to  a  custom  introduced  by 
themselves  ;  or  to  the  weakness  of  their  constitution,  or 
to  the  indolence  of  their  mind,  or  the  care  of  their  beauty, 
or  to  a  certain  flightiness  which  will  not  allow  them  to 
prosecute  any  continuous  studies,  or  to  a  talent  and 
aptitude  they  only  have  for  needlework,  or  to  an  inatten- 
tion caused  by  domestic  avocations,  or  to  a  natural  aver- 
sion for  all  serious  and  difficult  things,  or  to  a  curiosity 
quite  distinct  from  that  which  gratifies  the  mind,  or  to 
a  wholly  different  pleasure  from  that  of  exercising  the 
memory  ?  But  to  whatever  cause  men  may  ascribe  this 
ignorance  of  women,  they  may  consider  themselves 
happy  that  women,  who  rule  them  in  so  many  things,  are 
inferior  to  them  in  this  respect. 

We  look  on  a  learned  woman  as  we  do  on  a  fine  piece 
of  armour,  artistically  chiselled,  admirably  polished,  and 
of  exquisite  workmanship,  which  is  only  fit  to  be  shown 
to  connoisseurs,  of  no  use  whatever,  and  no  more  apt 
to  be  used  for  war  or  hunting  than  a  horse  out  of  a  riding- 
school  is,  though  it  may  be  trained  to  perfection. 


OF   WOMEN.  75 

Whenever  I  find  learning  and  sagacity  united  in  one 
and  the  same  person,  I  do  not  care  what  the  sex  may  be, 
I  admire ;  and  if  you  tell  me  that  a  sensible  woman 
hardly  thinks  of  becoming  learned,  or  that  a  learned 
woman  is  hardly  ever  a  sensible  woman,  you  have  already 
forgotten  what  you  have  just  read,  namely,  that  women 
are  prevented  from  studying  science  by  certain  imper- 
fections. Now  you  can  draw  your  own  conclusions, 
namely,  that  those  who  have  the  fewest  imperfections  are 
most  likely  to  have  the  greatest  amount  of  common-sense, 
and  that  thus  a  sensible  woman  bids  fairest  to  become 
learned  ;  and  that  a  learned  woman  could  never  be  such 
without  having  overcome  a  great  many  imperfections, 
and  this  is  the  very  best  proof  of  her  sense.  ^ 

(50.)  It  is  very  difficult  to  remain  neutral  when  two 
women,  who  are  both  our  friends,  fall  out  through  some 
cause  or  other  in  which  we  are  not  at  all  concerned  ;  we 
must  often  side  with  one  or  lose  both. 

(51.)  There  are  certain  women  who  love  their  money 
better  than  their  friends,  and  their  lovers  better  than 
their  money. 

(52.)  We  are  amazed  to  observe  in  some  women 
stronger  aiid  more  violent  passions  than  their  love  for 
men,  I  mean  ambition  and  gambling.  Such  women 
render  men  chaste,  and  have  nothing  of  their  own  sex 
but  the.  dress. '■^ 

1  In  La  Bruyere's  time  many  ladies  had  a  great  reputation  for  learning, 
such  as  Madame  de  Sevign^,  and  her  daughter,  Madame  de  Grignan,  who 
greatly  admired  Descartes'  philosophy  ;  Madame  de  la  Fayette  ;  and  a  sister 
of  Madame  de  Montespan,  who  was  Abbess  of  Fontevrault.  Montaigne 
was  of  opinion  that  women  had  no  need  of  learning,  and  Moliere,  in  his 
Fenimes  Savantes,  holds  the  golden  mean. 

'■'  Such  were,  for  example,  the  heroines  of  the  Fronde,  who  only  cared  for 
ambiiion.  Saint  Simon  in  his  Tl/^ww/rfj  speaks  of  the  Marechale  de  Cleram- 
bault,  "who  only  left  off  gambling  whilst  at  meals;"  the  Princess  de 
Harcourt,  who  took  usually  the  sacrament  after  having  gambled  until  four 


76  OB'   WOMEN. 

(53.)  Women  run  to  extremes  ;  they  are  either  better 
or  worse  than  men. 

(54.)  Most  women  have  hardly  any  principles  ;^  they 
are  led  by  their  passions,  and  form  their  morals  and 
manners  after  those  whom  they  love. 

(55.)  Women  exceed  the  generality  of  men  in  love; 
but  men  are  their  superiors  in  friendship.  Men  are 
the  cause  that  women  do  not  love  one  another. 

(56.)  There  is  some  danger  in  making  fun  of  people. 
Lise,  who  is  more  or  less  in  years,  in  trying  to  render  a 
young  woman  ridiculous,  has  changed  so  much  as  to 
become  frightful.  She  made  so  many  grimaces  and 
contortions  in  imitating  her,  and  now  has  grown  so  ugly, 
that  the  person  she  mimicked  cannot  have  a  better  foil. 

(57.)  In  the  city  many  male  and  female  nincompoops 
have  the  reputation  of  being  intelligent ;  at  court  many 
men  who  are  verj'  intelligent  are  considered  dolts  ;  and 
a  beautiful  woman  who  has  some  intelligence  will  hardly 
escape  being  called  "  foolish  "  by  other  women. 

(58.)  A  man  keeps  another  person's  secret  better 
than  his  own ;  a  woman,  on  the  contrary,  keeps  her  own 
secrets  better  than  any  other  person's. 

(59.)  There  is  no  love,  however  violent,  raging  in  the 
heart  of  a  young  woman,  but  there  is  still  some  room 
left  for  interest  and  ambition. 

(60.)  There  comes  a  time  when  the  wealthiest  women 
ought  to  marry  ;  they  seldom  let  slip  the  first  opportunity 
without  repenting  it  for  many  a  day  ;  it  seems  that  the 
reputation  of  their  wealth  diminishes  in  the  same  pro- 

in  the  morning  ;  and   the   Duchesse  d'Aumont,   whom  we   have  already 
mentioned. 

1  "  Most  women  have  no  characters  at  all,"  says  Pope  in  the  Second 
Epistle  "  Of  the  Characters  of  Women."  The  late  Rev.  Whitwell  Elwin 
thinks  this  "a  literal  rendering  "of  La  Bruyere's  §  65  "Of  Men."  I  imagine 
it  inspired  by  the  above  paragraph. 


OF   WOMEX.  77 

portion  as  their  beauty  does.  On  the  contrary,  every 
thing  is  favourable  to  young  girls,  even  men's  opinions, 
for  they  attribute  to  them  every  accomplishment,  to  ren- 
der them  still  more  desirable. 

(6 1.)  To  how  many  girls  has  a  great  beauty  been  of 
no  other  use  but  to  make  them  expect  a  large  fortune ! 

(62.)  Handsome  girls  are  apt  to  gratify  the  revenge 
of  the  lovers  they  have  ill-treated,  by  giving  their  hand 
to  ugly,  old,  or  unworthy  husbands. 

(63.)  Most  women  judge  of  the  merits  and  good  looks 
of  a  man  by  the  impression  he  makes  on  them,  and  very 
rarely  allow  either  of  those  qualities  to  a  person  who  is 
indifferent  to  them. 

(64.)  A  man  who  is  anxious  to  know  whether  his 
appearance  is  changed,  and  if  he  begins  to  grow  old, 
needs  only  to  consult  the  eyes  of  any  fair  one  he  ad- 
dresses, and  the  tone  of  her  voice  as  she  converses  with 
him,  and  he  will  then  learn  what  he  dreads  to  know.  But 
it  will  be  a  severe  lesson  to  him  ! 

(65.)  A  woman  who  always  stares  at  one  and  the 
same  person,  or  who  is  for  ever  avoiding  to  look  at  him, 
makes  us  conclude  but  one  and  the  same  thing  of  her. 

(66.)  Women  are  at  little  trouble  to  express  what 
they  do  not  feel ;  but  men  are  still  at  less  to  express 
what  they  do  feel. 

(67.)  It  sometimes  happens  that  a  woman  conceals 
from  a  man  the  love  she  feels  for  him,  while  he  only 
feigns  a  passion  he  does  not  feel. 

(68.)  Suppose  a  man  indifferent,  but  intending  to 
declare  to  a  woman  a  passion  he  does  not  feel,  it  may 
be  doubted  whether  it  would  not  be  easier  for  him  to 
deceive  ^  a  woman  who  loves  him  than-  one  to  whom  he 
is  indifferent. 

1  To  deceive  some  one  is  now  in  French  en  iinfoser  &  quelqu'im,  but 


78  OF   WOMEN. 

(69.)  A  man  may  deceive  a  woman  by  a  pretended 
inclination,  but  then  he  must  not  have  a  real  one  else- 
where. 

(70.)  A  man  storms  and  rails  at  a  woman  who  no 
longer  cares  for  him,  but  he  finds  consolation  ;  a  woman 
is  not  so  vociferous  when  she  is  forsaken,  but  she  re- 
mains unconsolable  for  a  longer  time. 

(71.)  Sloth  in  women  is  cured  either  by  vanity  or 
love  ;  though,  in  vivacious  women,  it  is  an  omen  of  love. 

(72.)  It  is  certain  that  a  woman  who  writes  letters 
full  of  passion  is  agitated,  though  it  is  not  so  sure  that 
she  is  in  love.  A  deep  and  tender  passion  is  more  likely 
to  become  dejected  and  silent  ;  and  the  greatest  and  most 
stirring  interest  a  woman  can  feel  whose  heart  is  no 
longer  free,  is  less  to  convince  her  lover  of  her  own  affec- 
tion than  to  be  assured  of  his  love  for  her. 

(73.)  Glycera  ^  does  not  love  her  own  sex  ;  she  hates 
their  conversation  and  their  visits  ;  she  gives  orders  to 
be  denied  to  them,  and  often  to  her  male  friends,  who 
are  not  many,  whom  she  treats  very  abruptly,  keeps 
within  limits,  and  whom  she  never  allows  to  transgress 
the  bounds  of  friendship.  She  is  absent-minded  when 
they  are  present,  answers  them  in  monosylla.bles,  and 
seems  to  seek  every  opportunity  of  getting  rid  of  them  ; 
she  dwells  alone,  and  leads  a  very  retired  life  in  her  own 
house  ;  her  gates  are  better  guarded  and  her  rooms  are 
more  inaccessible  than  those  of  Montauron  or  d'Esmery.2 


until  the  last  hundred  years  ijttposer  was  used,  which  meant  "to  deceive" 
and  "to  impose  respect." 

1  Glycera  is  said  to  have  been  Madame  de  la  Ferriere,  whom  we  have 
already  mentioned.     See  page  66,  note. 

-  Pierre  du  Puget,  lord  of  Montauron,  who  died  in  1664,  first  president 
of  the  bureau  des  finances  at  Montauban,  was  celebrated  for  his  riches  and 
vanity.     P.  Corneille  dedicated  his  tragedy  Cinna  to  him      Michael  Parti- 


OF   WOMEN.  79 

Only  Corinna  is  expected  and  admitted  at  all  hours,  em- 
braced several  times,  caressed,  and  addressed  with  bated 
breath,  though  they  are  alone  in  a  small  room ;  what- 
ever she  says  is  attentively  listened  to ;  complaints  are 
poured  into  Corinna's  ears  about  another  person  ;  every- 
thing is  told  her,  though  nothing  is  new  to  her,  for  she 
possesses  the  confidence  of  that  other  person  as  well. 
Glycera  is  seen  with  another  lady  and  two  gentlemen 
at  a  ball,  in  the  theatre,  in  the  public  gardens,  on  the 
road  to  Venouse,^  where  people  eat  fruit  early  in  the 
season  ;  sometimes  alone  in  a  sedan-chair  on  the  way 
to  the  grand  suburb,^  where  she  has  a  splendid  fruit- 
garden,  or  else  at  Canidia's^  door,  who  possesses  so  many 
rare  secrets,  promises  second  husbands  to  young  wives, 
and  tells  them  also  when  and  under  what  circum- 
stances they  will  obtain  them.  Glycera  appears  com- 
monly in  a  low  and  unpretentious  head-dress,  in  a  plain 
morning  gown,  without  any  stays,  and  in  slippers  ;  she 
is  charming  in  this  dress,  and  wants  nothing  but  a  little 
colour.  People  remark,  nevertheless,  that  she  wears  a 
splendid  brooch,  which  she  takes  special  care  to  conceal 
from  her  husband's  eyes.  She  cajoles  and  caresses  him, 
and  every  day  invents  some  new  pretty  names  for  him  ; 
the  "  dear  husband  "  and  his  wife  have  but  one  bedroom, 
and  would  not  sleep  in  any  other  room.     The  morning 

cell,  lord  .of  Esmery,  became,  through  the  patronage  of  Cardinal  Mazarin, 
surintendant  des  finances,  and  died  in  1650. 

1  Venouse  is  not  Venuzia,  the  native  town  of  the  Roman  lyric  poet  Horace, 
but  Vincennes  ;  the  road  from  Paris  to  Vincennes  was  a  favourite  spot  for 
walking. 

2  The  Faubourg  Saint-Germain  is  meant  by  the  "  grand  suburb." 

3  Canidia,  a  Neapolitan  lady,  is  said  to  have  been  loved  by  Horace,  and 
to  have  deserted  him.  Out  of  revenge  the  poet,  in  his  Epodesv.  and  xvii., 
depicted  her  as  an  old  sorceress  who  could  unsphere  the  moon.  Canidia  is 
supposed  to  allude  to  La  Voisin,  who  was  burned  at  the  stake  in  Paris,  in 
1680,  for  having  poisoned  several  people. 


8q  OF   WOMEN. 

she  spends  at  her  toilet  and  in  writing  some  urgent 
letters  ;  a  servant  ^  enters,  and  speaks  to  her  in  private  ; 
it  is  Parmenion,  her  favourite,  whom  she  upholds  against 
his  master's  dislike  and  his  fellow-servants'  jealousy. 
Who,  indeed,  delivers  a  message  or  brings  back  an 
answer  better  than  Parmenion  ?  who  speaks  less  of 
what  should  not  be  mentioned  ?  who  opens  a  private 
door  with  less  noise  ?  who  is  a  more  skilful  guide  up 
the  back-stairs  ?  or  more  cleverly  leads  a  person  out 
again  the  same  way  ? 

(74.)  I  cannot  understand  how  a  husband  who  gives 
way  to  his  freaks  and  his  temper,  who,  far  from  concealing 
his  bad  qualities,  shows,  on  the  contrary,  only  his  worst, 
who  is  covetous,  slovenly  in  his  dress,  abrupt  in  his 
answers,  impolite,  dull  and  taciturn,  can  expect  to  defend 
successfully  the  heart  of  a  young  wife  against  the  attacks 
of  a  gallant  who  makes  the  most  of  dress,  magnificence, 
complaisance,  politeness,  assiduity,  presents,  and  flatter)'.'-^ 

(75.)  A  husband  seldom  has  a  rival  who  is  not  of  his 
own  making,  and  whom  he  has  not  introduced  himself 
to  his  wife  at  one  time  or  other ;  he  is  always  praising 
him  before  her  for  his  fine  teeth  and  his  handsome 
countenance  ;  he  encourages  his  civilities  and  allows  him 
to  visit  at  his  house  ;  and  next  to  the  produce  of  his  own 
estate,  he  relishes  nothing  better  than  the  game  and  the 
truffles  his  friend  sends  him.  He  gives  a  supper,  and 
says  to  his  guests  :  "  Let  me  recommend  this  to  you ;  it 
is  sent  by  Leander  and  costs  me  nothing  but  thanks." 

(76.)    A   certain  wife  seems  to  have  annihilated  or 


1  In  the  original  affranchi,  freedman. 

2  All  the  "  Keys "  say  that  "the  husband  "  of  this  paragraph  and  the 
following  one  was  a  certain  Nicolas  de  Baiiquemare,  president  de  la 
deuxienie  chambre  des  requites  au  palais. 


OF   WOMEN.  8  I 

buried  her  husband,  for  he  is  not  so  much  as  mentioned 
in  this  world ;  ^  it  is  doubted  whether  such  a  man  be 
alive  or  dead.  In  his  family  his  only  use  is  to  be  a 
pattern  of  timid  silence  and  of  implicit  submission.  He 
has  nothing  to  do  with  jointure  or  settlement ;  if  it  were 
not  for  that,  and  his  not  lying-in,  one  would  almost  take 
him  for  the  wife  and  her  for  the  husband.  They  are  for 
months  in  the  house  together  without  any  danger  of 
meeting  one  another  ;  in  reality  they  are  only  neighbours. 
The  master  of  the  house  pays  the  cook  and  his  assist- 
ants, but  the  supper  is  always  served  in  my  lady's  apart- 
ment. Often  they  have  nothing  in  common,  neither  bed, 
board,  nor  even  the  same  name  ;  they  live  in  the  Greek 
or  Roman  fashion  ;  she  keeps  her  name,  and  he  has  his  ; 
and  it  is  only  after  some  time,  and  when  a  man  has  been 
initiated  in  the  tittle-tattle  of  the  town,  that  at  last  he 
comes  to  know  that  Mr.  B  .  .  .  and  Madam  L  .  .  .  have 
been  man  and  wife  these  twenty  years.^ 

{77.)  Another  wife,  who  does  not  give  her  husband 
any  uneasiness  on  account  of  her  disorderly  behaviour, 
repays  herself  for  it  by  worrying  him  about  her  high 
birth,  her  connections,  the  dowry  she  has  brought  him, 
her  enchanting  beauty,  her  merits,  and  by  what  some 
people  call  "  her  virtue." 

(78.)  There  are  few  wives  so  perfect  as  not  to  give 
their  husbands  at  least  once  a  day  good  reason  to  repent 
of  ever  having  married,  or  at  least  of  envying  those  who 
are  unmarried. 


^  Wives  of  a  similar  kind  seem  to  have  been  Madame  de  Monte'jpan, 
Madame  de  S^vigne,  and  Madame  de  la  Fayette. 

2  This  paragraph  refers  again  to  the  /•resilient,  mentioned  on  page  80, 
note  2,  and  to  his  wife,  who  was  always  called  "  D'Ons-en-Bray,"  pronounced 
"  D'Osembray,"  after  a  property  belonging  to  her  husband. 

F 


82  OF   WOMEN. 

(79.)  Dumb  and  stupefied  grief ^  is  out  of  fashion; 
women  weep,  are  garrulous,  and  so  concerned  about 
their  husbands'  death  that  they  do  not  forget  to  harp 
on  every  one  of  the  details. 

(80.)  Is  it  impossible  for  a  husband  to  discover  the 
art  of  making  his  wife  love  him  ? 

(81.)  An  insensible  woman  is  one  who  has  not  yet  met 
the  person  whom  she  is  to  love.      In  Smyrna  there  lived 
a  very  handsome  young  lady,  named  Emira,  yet  better 
known  throughout  the  town  for  her  strict  conduct  than 
for  her  beauty,  and  above  all,  for  the  indifference   she 
showed  for  all  men,  whom,   as   she  said,  she  beheld 
without  any  danger,  and  without  any  greater  emotions 
than  when  in  the  company  of  her   female   friends   and 
her  brothers.     She  could  not  believe  a  thousandth  part 
of  all  the  follies  ascribed  to  love  at  all  times  ;  and  those 
which  she  saw  herself,  seemed  to  her  unaccountable. 
Friendship  was  the  only  feeling  she  knew,  and  her  first 
experience  of  it  was  through  a  youthful  and  charming 
maiden,  who  pleased  her  so  much  that  she  only  thought 
how  to  continue  it,  never  imagining  that  any  other  in- 
clination could  ever  abate  that   feeling  of  esteem  and 
confidence   in  which  she  now  exulted.     All  her  conver- 
sation was  about  Euphrosyne,  for  this  was  the  name  of 
her  faithful   friend,  and   the  whole   town   talked  about 
nothing    else    but    about    her    and    Euphrosyne ;    their 
friendship  became  a  proverb.      Emira  had  two  brothers, 
both  young,  and  so  handsome  that  all  the  ladies  of  the 
city  were   in   love  with   them,  whilst    she   herself  loved 
them  as  a  true  sister.      One    of  the   priests  of  Jupiter, 
who  visited  at  her  father's  house,  fell  in  love  with  her, 

1  Stupide  had,  in  La  Bruyete's  time,  the  meaning  of  "  stupefied  "  as  well 
as  of  "  stupid." 


OF   WOMEN.  83 

and  dared  to  declare  his  passion,  but  was  repelled  with 
scorn.  A  man  of  a  certain  age,  who,  relying  on  his 
noble  birth  and  large  estates,  had  the  same  assurance, 
met  with  the  same  repulse.  She  boasted  of  this,  how- 
ever ;  and  even  when  in  the  company  of  her  brothers,  the 
priest,  and  the  old  noble,  declared  she  was  insensible  to 
love.  It  seemed  that  Heaven  reserved  severer  trials  for 
her ;  yet  these  had  no  other  effect  but  to  render  her 
more  vain  and  to  enhance  her  reputation  as  a  maiden 
superior  to  love.  Of  three  lovers  smitten  by  her 
charms  in  succession,  and  whose  affections  she  did  not 
dread,  the  first,  in  a  fit  of  passion,  stabbed  himself 
at  her  feet ;  the  second,  despairing  of  ever  succeeding 
in  his  suit,  went  to  seek  his  death  in  the  wars  of 
Crete ;  and  the  third  ended  his  days  in  languor  and 
passed  his  nights  without  sleep.  The  man  who  was  to 
avenge  them  had  not  yet  made  his  appearance.  The 
aged  noble,  who  had  not  been  fortunate  in  his  suit,  was 
cured  of  his  love  by  reflecting  on  his  age  and  on  the 
character  of  the  young  lady  to  whom  he  paid  his  ad- 
dresses ;  however,  he  wished  to  visit  her  sometimes,  and 
received  her  permission  so  to  do.  One  day  he  intro- 
duced to  her  his  youthful  son,  who  united  to  a  charming 
countenance  manners  full  of  dignity.  Emira  beheld  him 
with  some  interest ;  but  as  he  remained  silent  in  the 
presence  of  his  father,  she  thought  he  was  wanting  in 
intelligence,  and  could  have  wished  him  more.  He  saw 
her  afterwards  alone,  and  conversed  long  enough  and 
intelligently ;  but  as  he  did  not  look  at  her  much,  and 
talked  still  less  about  her  and  her  beauty,  she  was  surprised 
and  somewhat  indignant  that  such  a  nice-looking  and 
clever  young  man  should  be  so  void  of  gallantry.  She 
spoke  of  him  to  her  friend,  who  expressed  a   desire   to 


84  OF    WOMEN. 

see  him.  He,  then,  only  looked  at  Euphrosyne,  and 
praised  her  beauty.  At  this  the  unfeeling  Emira  be- 
came jealous  ;  she  perceived  that  Ctesiphon  spoke  what 
he  really  felt,  and  that  he  was  not  only  capable  of 
gallantry,  but  even  of  tenderness.  From  that  time  she 
cooled  towards  her  friend ;  yet  she  wished  to  see  the 
couple  together  once  more,  to  make  quite  sure  that  her 
suspicions  were  well-founded.  The  second  interview 
showed  her  more  than  she  dreaded  to  see,  and  changed 
her  suspicions  into  certainty.  She  now  avoided  Euph- 
rosyne ;  she  no  longer  perceived  in  her  that  merit  which 
charmed  her  before ;  she  lost  all  pleasure  in  her  con- 
versation ;  she  loved  her  no  longer ;  and  this  alteration 
made  her  aware  that  love  had  driven  friendship  from 
her  heart.  Ctesiphon  and  Euphrosyne  saw  each  other 
every  day,  loved  one  another,  agreed  to  marry,  and, 
finally,  were  married.  The  news  spread  through  the  town, 
and  was  talked  about  the  more  as  it  is  not  often  that 
two  persons  who  love  one  another  are  married.  Emira 
heard  of  it,  and  became  desperate  ;  she  now  felt  all  the 
power  of  love  ;  she  again  visited  Euphrosyne  only  for  the 
pleasure  of  anew  beholding  Ctesiphon ;  but  that  young 
husband  still  remained  a  lover,  and  in  his  new  wife 
found  all  the  charms  of  a  mistress  ;  he  looked  on  Emira 
but  as  a  friend  of  her  who  was  dear  to  him.  This  unfortu- 
nate girl  could  no  longer  rest,  and  refused  to  take  any 
nourishment ;  she  got  weaker  and  weaker,  and  at  last 
her  mind  became  affected  ;  she  mistook  her  brother  for 
Ctesiphon,  and  spoke  to  him  as  a  lover  ;  she  recollected 
herself,  and  blushed  for  her  error,  yet  soon  relapsed  into 
greater  errors,  for  which  she  did  not  blush,  for  she  was 
no  longer  aware  of  them.  Now  she  dreads  men,  but  it 
is  too  late ;  that  is  the  cause  of  her  madness.     She  has 


OF   WOMEN.  85 

lucid  intervals,  but  these  are  the  most  painful  to  her. 
The  youth  of  Smyrna,  who  saw  her  formerly  so  proud 
and  so  void  of  feeling,  now  think  that  the  gods  have 
punished  her  too  severely.^ 

It  might  have  been  expected  that  some  of  the  "  Keys  "  would  have  told 
us  who  Emira  was,  but  this  anecdote  is  either  invented  by  La  Bruyere  or 
founded  on  a  fact  only  known  to  him. 


X  X^vivi"^^^'''- 


V. 


OF  THE  AFFECTIONS. 


(i.)  TDURE  friendship  is  something  which  men  of 
an  inferior  intellect  can  never  taste. 

(2.)  Friendship  can  exist  between  persons  of  differ- 
ent sexes,  without  any  coarse  or  sensual  feelings  ;  yet  a 
woman  always  looks  upon  a  man  as  a  man,  and  so  a 
man  will  look  upon  a  woman  as  a  woman.  Such  a  con- 
nection is  neither  love  nor  pure  friendship,  but  some- 
thing out  of  the  common. 

(3.)  Love  arises  suddenly,  without  any  warning, 
through  a  natural  disposition  or  through  weakness  ;  one 


OF   THE   AFFECTIONS.  87 

glance  of  the  fair  transfixes  us,  determines  us.  Friend- 
ship, on  the  contrary,  is  formed  gradually,  in  time,  through 
familiarity  and  long  acquaintance.  How  much  intelli- 
gence, kindness  of  heart  and  affection  ;  how  many  good 
•offices  and  civilities  are  required  among  friends  to  ac- 
complish in  several  years  what  a  lovely  face  or  a  fine 
hand  does  in  a  minute. 

(4.)  Time,  which  strengthens  friendship,  weakens  love. 

(5.)  As  long  as  love  lasts,  it  feeds  on  itself,  and  some- 
times by  those  very  means  which  seem  rather  likely  to 
extinguish  it,  such  as  caprice,  severity,  absence,  jealousy. 
Friendship,  on  the  contrary,  needs  every  assistance, 
and  dies  from  want  of  attention,  confidence,  and  kind- 
ness. 

(6.)  It  is  not  so  difficult  to  meet  with  excessive  love 
as  with  perfect  friendship. 

(7.)  Love  and  friendship  exclude  each  other. 

(8.)  A  man  who  is  passionately  in  love  neglects  friend- 
ship, and  one  whose  whole  feelings  are  for  friendship  has 
none  to  give  to  love. 

(9.)  Love  begins  with  love ;  and  the  warmest  friend- 
ship cannot  change  even  to  the  coldest  love. 

(10.)  Nothing  is  more  like  the  most  ardent  friendship 
than  those  acquaintances  which  we  cultivate  for  the  sake 
of  our  love. 

(11.)  We  never  love  with  all  our  heart  and  all  our 
soul  but  once,  and  that  is  the  first  time -we  love.  Sub- 
sequent inclinations  are  less  instinctive. 

(12.)  Sudden  love  takes  the  longest  time  to  be  cured. 

(13.)  Love,  slow  and  gradual  in  its  growth,  is  too 
much  like  friendship  ever  to  be  a  violent  passion. 

(14.)  A  man  who  loves  so  ardently  that  he  wishes  he 
were  able  to  love  ever  so  many  thousand  times  more  than 


88  OF   THE   AFFECTIONS. 

he  does,  yields  in  love  to  none  but  to  a  man  who  loves 
more  intensely  than  he  could  wish, 

(15.)  If  I  were  to  admit  that  in  the  ebullitions  of  a 
violent  passion  one  may  love  another  person  better  than 
oneself,  whom  should  I  please  most — those  who  love  or 
those  who  are  beloved  ? 

(16.)   Men  are  not  seldom  inclined  to  fall  in  love,  but 
cannot  succeed  in  their  desire ;  they  seek  every  oppor- 
-tunity  of  being  conquered,  but  fail  to  meet  it,  and,  if  I 
may  say  so,  are  compelled  to  remain  at  liberty. 

(17.)  Those  who  love  too  violently  at  first,  soon  con- 
tribute individually  to  their  loving  one  another  less,  and, 
finally,  to  their  not  loving  one  another  any  longer.  It 
is  not  so  easy  to  decide  who  is  most  to  blame  for  this 
rupture,  the  man  or  the  woman.  Women  accuse  men  of 
being  inconstant,  and  men  retort  that  women  are  fickle. 
(18.)  However  particular  we  may  be  in  love,  we 
pardon  more  faults  in  love  than  in  friendship, 

(19,)  It  is  a  sweet  revenge  to  a  man  who  loves 
passionately  to  make  an  ungrateful  mistress  appear  still 
more  so,  by  his  very  actions. 

(20.)  It  is  a  sorry  circumstance  to  love  when  we  have 
not  a  fortune  large  enough  to  render  those  whom  we 
love  so  happy  that  there  is  nothing  more  they  can  wish 
for. 

(21.)  If  a  woman  with  whom  we  have  been  violently 
in  love,  and  who  has  not  returned  our  passion,  after- 
wards renders  us  some  important  services,  she  will 
hardly  meet  with  anything  but  ingratitude. 

(22,)  A  lively  gratitude  denotes  a  great  esteem  and 
affection  for  the  person  who  lays  us  under  some  obliga- 
tion. 

(23.)  To  be  in  the  company  of  those  whom  we  love 


OF   THE   AFFECTIONS.  89 

satisfies  us  ;  it  does  not  signify  whether  we  dream  of 
them,  speak  or  not  speak  to  them,  think  of  them  or  think 
of  indifferent  things,  as  long  as  we  are  near  them. 

(24.)  Hatred  is  nearer  to  friendship  than  antipathy  is. 

(25.)  It  seems  that  antipathy  changes  oftener  into 
love  than  into  friendship. 

(26.)  We  confide  our  secret  to  a  friend,  but  in  love  it 
escapes  us. 

It  is  possible  to  enjoy  some  people's  confidence,  and 
yet  not  their  affections  ;  he  who  possesses  these  needs 
no  trusting,  no  confidence  ;  everything  is  open  to  him. 

(27,)  In  friendship  we  only  see  those  faults  which  may 
be  prejudicial  to  our  friends  ;  in  those  whom  we  love 
we  discern  no  faults  but  those  by  which  we  suffer  our- 
selves. 

(28.)  The  first  tiff  in  love,  as  the  first  fault  in  friend- 
ship, is  the  only  one  of  which  we  are  able  to  make  good 
use. 

(29.)  Methinks  that  if  an  unjust,  eccentric,  and 
groundless  suspicion  has  been  called  jealousy,  that  other 
jealousy  which  is  just,  natural,  founded  on  reason  and  on 
experience,  deserves  some  other  name. 

Our  natural  disposition  has  no  small  share  in  jealousy 
which  does  not  always  spring  from  a  great  passion.  Yet 
it  is  a  paradox  for  a  violent  love  not  to  be  esoteric. 

Our  idiosyncrasy  often  causes  no  suffering  to  any  one 
but  to  ourselves  ;  but  in  jealousy  we  suffer  ourselves  apd 
give  pain  to  others. 

Those  women  who  do  not  respect  any  of  our  feelings 
and  give  us  so  many  opportunities  of  becoming  jealous, 
should  not  be  worthy  of  our  jealousy  if  we  were  guided 
rather  by  their  sentiments  and  conduct  than  by  our  affec- 
tions. 


90  OF   THE   AFFECTIONS. 

(30.)  Coolness  in  friendship  and  the  slackening  of  its 
ties,  arise  not  without  cause  ;  in  love  there  is  hardly  any 
other  cause  for  our  ceasing  to  love  but  that  of  having 
loved  to  excess. 

(31.)  It  is  no  more  in  our  power  to  love  always  than 
it  was  not  to  love  at  all. 

(32.)  Love  receives  its  death-wound  from  aversion, 
and  forgetfulness  buries  it. 

(33-)  We  perceive  when  love  begins  and  when  it  de- 
clines by  our  perplexity  when  alone. 

(34.)  To  cease  from  loving  is  a  distinct  proof  that 
the  powers  of  man  are  limited  and  his  affections  as  well. 

It  is  a  weakness  to  love  ;  it  is  sometimes  another  weak- 
ness to  attempt  the  cure  of  it. 

We  are  cured  in  the  same  way  as  we  are  comforted, 
for  we  cannot  always  weep  nor  love  with  all  our  heart. 

(35.)  There  should  be  within  the  heart  inexhaustible 
sources  of  grief  for  certain  losses.  It  is  seldom  that 
either  by  our  virtue  or  strength  of  mind  we  overcome  a 
great  affliction  ;  we  weep  bitterly  and  are  deeply  moved, 
but  afterwards  we  are  either  so  weak  or  so  flighty  that 
we  console  ourselves.^ 

(36.)  When  a  plain-looking  woman  is  loved,  it  is 
certain  to  be  very  passionately  ;  for  either  her  influence 
on  her  lover  is  irresistible,  or  she  has  some  secret  and 
more  irresistible  charms  than  those  of  beauty. 

(37.)  For  a  long  time  visits  among  lovers  and  pro- 
fessions of  love  are  kept  up  through  habit,  after  their 
behaviour  has  plainly  proved  that  love  no  longer  exists. 


1  La  Rouchefoucauld,  in  the  Maximes  (1665),  makes  almost  the  same  re- 
marks, and  so  does  Pascal  in  the  Pensees  (1670).  It  often  happens  that  those 
two  authors  agree  in  their  expressions  and  thoughts  with  La  Bruyere,  who 
carefully  studied  them  before  publishing  his  Caracteres. 


OF   THE   AFFECTIONS.  9 1 

(38.)  To  endeavour  to  forget  any  one  is  a  certain 
way  of  thinking  of  nothing  else.  Love  has  this  in 
common  with  scruples,  that  it  becomes  embittered  by 
the  reflections  and  the  thoughts  that  beset  us  to  free 
ourselves.  If  we  could  do  it,  the  only  way  to  extinguish 
our  passion  would  be  never  to  think  of  it. 

(39.)  We  should  like  those  whom  we  love  to  receive 
all  their  happiness,  or,  if  this  were  impossible,  all  their 
unhappiness  from  our  hands, 

(40.)  To  bewail  the  loss  of  a  person  we  love  is  a 
happiness  compared  with  the  necessity  of  living  with  one 
we  hate. 

(41.)  However  disinterested  we  may  be  with  regard  to 
those  we  love,  we  must  sometimes  constrain  ourselves 
for  their  sake,  and  have  the  generosity  to  accept  gifts, 

A  man  may  freely  accept  a  gift  if  he  feels  as  great  a 
pleasure  in  receiving  it  as  his  friend  felt  in  giving  it  him. 

(42.)  To  give  is  to  act;  we  do  not  suffer  any  pains 
by  our  liberality,  nor  by  yielding  to  the  importunity  or 
necessity  of  postulants, 

(43.)  If  at  any  time  we  have  been  liberal  to  those  we 
loved,  whatever  happens  afterwards,  there  is  no  occasion 
to  think  of  what  we  have  given. 

(44.)  It  has  been  said  in  Latin  ^  that  it  costs  less  to 
hate  than  to  love  ;  or,  in  other  words,  that  friendship  is 
more  expensive  than  hatred.  It  is  true  that  we  need 
not  be  liberal  towards  our  enemies ;  but  does  revenge 
cost  nothing  ?  Or,  if  it  be  so  pleasing  and  natural  to 
harm  those  we  hate,  is  it  less  so  to  do  good  to  those  we 
love  ?  Would  it  not  be  disagreeable  and  painful  for  us 
not  to  do  so  ? 

1  Discordia  fit  carior  concordia  is  a  saying  of  the  Latin  poet  Publius 
Syrus  (104-41  B.C.) 


92  OF   THE   AFFECTIONS. 

(45.)  There  is  a  pleasure  in  meeting  the  glance  of  a 
person  whom  we  have  lately  laid  under  some  obliga- 
tions. 

(46.)  I  do  not  know  whether  a  benefit  conferred  upon 
an  ungrateful  person,  and  thus  on  a  person  unworthy 
of  it,  does  not  change  its  name,  and  whether  it  deserves 
any  gratitude.^ 

(47.)  Liberality  consists  not  so  much  in  giving  a  great 
deal  as  in  giving  seasonably, 

(48.)  If  it  be  true  that  in  showing  pity  and  compassion 
we  think  of  ourselves,  because  we  fear  to  be  one  day  or 
another  in  the  same  circumstances  as  those  unfortunate 
people  for  whom  we  feel,  why  are  the  latter  so  sparingly 
relieved  by  us  in  their  wretchedness  ? 

It  is  better  to  expose  ourselves  to  ingratitude  than  to 
neglect  our  duty  to  the  distressed. 

(49.)  Experience  proves  us  that  if  we  are  effeminate, 
and  indulgent  towards  ourselves,  and  obdurate  towards 
others,  we  show  but  one  and  the  same  vice. 

(50.)  A  moiling,  toiling  man,  who  shows  no  mercy 
to  himself,  is  only  lenient  to  others  by  excess  of  reason. 

(51.)  Though  the  charge  of  maintaining  a  poor  person 
may  be  very  burdensome  to  us,  yet  a  change  of  fortune, 
which  makes  him  no  longer  our  dependent,  gives  us  no 
great  pleasure,  in  the  same  way  as  our  joy  at  the  prefer- 
ment of  a  friend  is  somewhat  tempered  by  the  small 
grudge  we  bear  him  for  having  become  our  superior 
or  our  equal.  Thus  we  agree  but  ill  with  ourselves,  for 
we  should  like  to  have  others  dependent  on  us,  but  it 
must  cost  us  nothing ;  and  we  should  like  to  see  our 
friends    prosperous,   yet   when   good  fortune   comes  to 

1  In  the  chapter  "Of  the  Affection","  La  Bruyere  has  borrowed  a  goodly 
number  of  ideas  of  Seneca's  treatise  De  beneficiis;  this  is  one  of  them. 


OF   THE  AFFECTIONS.  93 

them,  the  first  thing  we  do  is  not  always  to  be  glad 
about  it 

(52.)  People  send  you  invitations,  ask  you  to  come 
to  their  house,  offer  you  even  board  and  lodging,  nay, 
their  very  fortune  and  their  services  ;  all  this  costs  them 
nothing ;  but  will  they  be  as  good  as  their  word  ? 

(53.)  One  faithful  friend  is  enough  for  a  man,  and 
he  is  very  fortunate  to  meet  with  one ;  yet  he  cannot 
have  too  many  which  may  be  of  use  to  others. 

(54.)  When  we  have  done  all  that  we  can  do  for 
certain  people  in  order  ^o  acquire  their  friendship,  and 
we  find  we  have  been  unsuccessful,  there  is  still  one 
resource  left  to  us,  which  is,  not  to  do  anything 
more. 

(55.)  To  live  with  our  enemies  as  if  they  might  one 
day  become  our  friends, ^  and  to  live  with  our  friends  as 
if  they  might  some  time  or  other  become  our  enemies, 
is  equally  opposed  to  the  very  nature  of  hatred,  as  well 
as  to  the  rules  of  friendship.  It  may  be  a  political 
maxim,  it  is  certainly  not  a  moral  one. 

(56.)  We  ought  not  to  make  those  people  our  enemies 
who  might  have  become  our  friends,  if  we  had  only 
known  them  better.  We  ought  to  choose  friends  of 
such  a  high  and  honourable  character  that,  even  after 
having  ceased  to  remain  our  friends,  they  should  not 
abuse  pur  confidence,  nor  make  us  dread  them  as  our 
enemies. 

(57.)  It  is  pleasant  to  visit  our  friends  because  we 
like  and  esteem  them  ;  it  is  a  torture  to  frequent  them 
because  we  want  them  ;  then  we  become  applicants. 

(58.)  We  should  try  and  gain  the  affections  of  those  to 

1  An  imitation  of  another  line  of  Publius  Syrus  :  Ita  amicum  habeas, 
fosse  inintUunt  fieri  ut  putes. 


94  OF   THE   AFFECTIONS. 

whom  we  wish  to  do  good  rather  than  of  those  who  could 
do  us  some  good.^ 

(59.)  We  do  not  employ  the  same  means  for  bettering 
our  position  as  we  do  in  pursuing  frivolous  and  fanciful 
things.  We  feel  a  certain  kind  of  freedom  in  acting  ac- 
cording to  our  fancy,  and,  on  the  contrary,  a  certain  kind 
of  thraldom  in  labouring  for  obtaining  a  place.  It  is 
natural  to  desire  it  ardently  and  to  take  little  pains  to 
obtain  it,  for  we  think  that  we  deserve  it  without  seek- 
ing for  it. 

(60.)  He  who  knows  how  to  wait  for  what  he  desires 
does  not  feel  very  desperate  if  he  fails  in  obtaining  it ;  and 
he,  on  the  contrary,  who  is  very  impatient  in  procuring  a 
certain  thing,  takes  so  much  pains  about  it,  that,  even 
when  he  is  successful,  he  does  not  think  himself  suffi- 
ciently rewarded. 

(61.)  There  are  certain  people  who  so  ardently  and 
so  passionately  2  desire  a  thing,  that  from  dread  of  losing 
it  they  leave  nothing  undone  to  make  them  lose  it. 

(62.)  Those  things  which  we  desire  most  never  hap- 
pen at  all,  or  do  not  happen  at  the  right  time,  and  under 
those  circumstances  when  they  would  have  given  us  the 
greatest  pleasure. 

(63.)  We  must  laugh  before  we  are  happy,  or  else  we 
may  die  before  ever  having  laughed  at  all. 

(64.)  Life  is  short,  if  we  are  only  said  to  live  when 
we  enjoy  ourselves  ;  and  if  we  were  merely  to  count  up 
the  hours  we  spent  agreeably,  a  great  number  of  years 
would  hardly  make  up  a  life  of  a  few  months. 


1  This  paragranh  was  not  very  clear  in  the  original.     We  have  followed 
M.  Destailleur's  explanation. 

2  In  the  original  determinement,  an  adverb  employed  by  the  best  authors 
of  the  seventeenth  century,  but  now  antiquated. 


OF   THE   AFFECTIONS.  95 

(65.)  How  difficult  is  it  to  be  pleased  with  any  one  ! 

(66.)  We  imagine  that  it  would  be  impossible  to  pre- 
vent our  feeling  some  pleasure  if  we  were  present  at  the 
death  of  a  wicked  man,  for  then  we  could  reap  the  harvest 
of  our  hatred,  and  get  from  him  all  that  we  could  ever  hope 
to  get  from  him,  namely,  the  delight  his  death  causes  us. 
But  when  at  last  this  man  really  dies,  and  at  a  time 
when  our  interest  will  not  permit  us  to  rejoice,  he  dies 
either  too  soon  or  too  late  for  us. 

(67.)  It  is  difficult  for  a  proud  man  ever  to  forgive 
a  person  who  has  found  him  at  fault,  and  who  has  good 
grounds  for  complaining  of  him  ;  his  pride  is  not  assuaged 
till  he  has  regained  the  advantages  he  lost  and  put  the 
other  person  in  the  wrong. 

(68.)  As  our  affection  increases  towards  those  whom 
we  wish  to  assist,  so  we  vit)lently  hate  those  whom  we 
have  greatly  offended. 

(69.)  It  is  as  difficult  at  first  to  stifle  the  resentment 
of  a  wrong  done  to  us  as  to  retain  it  after  many  years. 

(70.)  It  is  weakness  which  makes  us  hate  an  enemy 
and  seek  revenge,  and  it  is  idleness  that  pacifies  us  and 
causes  us  to  neglect  it. 

(71.)  It  is  as  much  from  idleness  as  from  weakness 
that  we  allow  ourselves  to  be  controlled. 

No  man  should  think  of  controlling  another  person  all 
at  once,  and  without  some  preliminaries,  in  some  impor- 
tant matter  of  business  which  might  be  of  great  conse- 
quence to  him  and  to  his  family ;  such  a  person  would 
at  once  become  aware  of  the  sway  and  ascendency  in- 
tended to  be  obtained  over  him,  and  would  throw  off  the 
yoke  out  of  shame  or  inconsistency.  He  should  be  tried 
first  with  trifling  things,  and  then  success  is  certain  when 
attempting  greater  ones.      Some  people,   who,  at  first, 


g6  OF   THE    AFFECTIONS. 

scarcely  ventured  to  make  a  man  leave  for  the  country  or 
to  let  him  return  to  town,  obtained  such  an  influence  over 
him  at  last,  that  he  made  his  will,  as  they  told  him,  and 
only  left  his  own  son  what  he  was  obliged  to  leave  him.^ 

In  order  to  control  a  man  for  any  length  of  time  and 
completely,  a  light  hand  is  necessary,  so  as  to  let  him 
feel  his  dependence  as  little  as  possible. 

Some  people  allow  themselves  to  be  controlled  up  to 
a  certain  point,  but  beyond  that  they  are  intractable  and 
ungovernable ;  suddenly  all  influence  is  lost  over  their 
feelings  and  mind,  and  neither  rough  nor  gentle  means, 
force  nor  address,  can  reduce  them :  yet,  with  this  dif- 
ference, that  some  act  thus  moved  by  reasoning  and 
conclusive  evidence,  and  others  through  inclination  and 
constitution. 

There  are  some  men  who  turn  a  deaf  ear  to  reason 
and  good  advice,  and  wilfully  go  wrong  for  fear  of  being 
controlled. 

There  are  others  who  allow  their  friends  to  control 
them  in  trifling  things,  and  thence  presume  to  control 
them  in  things  of  weight  and  consequence. 

Drance^  would  fain  pass  for  a  man  who  rules  his 
master,  though  his  master  and  the  world  know  better. 
For  a  man  in  office  to  talk  incessantly  to  his  employer, 
a  man  of  high  rank,  at  improper  times  and  places,  to 
be  always  whispering  or  using  certain  words  with  mys- 
terious intent,  to  laugh  boisterously  in  his  presence,  to 
interrupt  him  when  he  speaks,  to  interfere  when  others 
address  him,  to  treat  with  contempt  those  who  come  to 


1  This  is  called  /a  Ugithne  in  French. 

2  All  commentators  are  agreed  that  by  Drance  the  Count  de  Clermont- 
Tonnerre,  first  gentleman-in-waiting  of  the  Duke  of  Orleans,  brother  of 
Louis  XIV.,  is  meant. 


OF   THE   AFFECTIONS.  97 

pay  their  court  to  his  master,  or  express  impatience  till 
they  are  gone,  to  stand  near  him  in  too  unconstrained 
an  attitude,  to  lean  with  his  back  against  the  chimney- 
mantel  as  his  master  does,  to  pluck  him  by  his  coat,  to 
tread  upon  his  heels,  to  affect  a  certain  familiarity  and 
to  take  such  liberties,  are  signs  of  a  coxcomb  rather 
than  of  a  favourite. 

An  intelligent  man  neither  allows  himself  to  be  con- 
trolled nor  attempts  to  control  others  ;  he  wishes  reason 
alone  to  rule,  and  that  always. 

Had  I  a  friend,  a  man  of  sense,  I  should  not  object  to 
confide  in  him,  and  to  be  controlled  by  him  in  ever)'- 
thing,  completely  and  for  ever.  I  should  then  be  sure 
of  acting  rightly  without  the  trouble  of  thinking  about 
it,  whilst  enjoying  all  the  calm  of  a  man  swayed  by 
common-sense. 

(72.)  All  passions  are  deceptive  ;  they  conceal  them- 
selves as  much  as  possible  from  others  and  from  them- 
selves as  well.  No  vice  exists  which  does  not  pretend 
to  be  more  or  less  like  some  virtue,  and  which  does  not 
take  advantage  of  this  assumed  resemblance. 

(73.)  We  open  a  book  of  devotion,  and  it  affects  us ;  we 
open  a  book  of  gallantry,  and  that,  too,  impresses  us. 
If  I  may  say  so,  it  is  the  heart  alone  which  reconciles 
things  so  opposed  to  one  another,  and  allows  incompa- 
tibilities. 

(74.)  Men  are  less  ashamed  of  their  crimes  than  of 
their  weaknesses  and  their  vanity.  The  same  man  who 
is  openly  unjust,  violent,  treacherous,  and  a  slanderer,  will 
conceal  his  love  or  his  ambition  for  no  other  reason  but 
to  conceal  it. 

(75.)  It  rarely  happens  that  a  man  can  say  he  is 
ambitious,  for  if  he  has  been  so  once,  he  remains  so  ; 

G 


98  OF   THE   AFFECTIONS. 

but  there  comes  a  time  when  he  admits  he  has  been  in 
love. 

(76.)  Men  begin  with  love  and  end  with  ambition, 
and  are  seldom  free  from  passion  till  they  die. 

(77.)  Nothing  is  easier  for  passion  than  to  overcome 
reason,  but  the  greatest  triumph  is  to  conquer  a  man's 
own  interests. 

(78.)  A  man  who  is  swayed  by  his  feelings  is  more 
sociable  and  agreeable  to  converse  with  than  one  who  is 
swayed  by  his  intelligence. 

(79.)  There  are  certain  sublime  sentiments,  certain 
noble  and  lofty  actions,  for  which  we  are  indebted  rather 
to  the  kindness  of  our  disposition  than  to  the  strength  of 
our  mind. 

(80.)  There  is  no  excess  in  the  world  so  commendable 
as  excessive  gratitude. 

(81.)  A  man  must  be  completely  wanting  in  intelli- 
gence if  he  does  not  show  it  when  actuated  by  love, 
malice,  or  necessity. 

(82.)  There  are  certain  spots  which  we  admire,  others 
which  we  love,  and  where  we  long  to  pass  our  days. 

It  seems  that  our  mind,  our  temper,  passions,  taste 
and  feelings,  are  influenced  by  the  places  where  we  dwell. ^ 

(83.)  Benevolent  persons  should  be  the  only  ones  to 
be  envied,  if  there  were  not  a  better  course  open  to  us, 
which  is,  to  excel  them  ;  thus  we  can  avenge  ourselves 
pleasantly  on  those  whom  we  dislike. 

(84.)  Some  people  pretend  they  never  were  in  love 
and  never  wrote  poetry  ;  two  weaknesses  which  they  dare 
not  own — one  of  the  heart,  the  other  of  the  mind. 

1  Montesquieu  has  developed  this  idea  of  the  influence  of  climate  on  the 
mind  and  race  in  his  Esprit  des  Lois,  as  well  as  H.  A.  Taine  in  his  "  His- 
tory of  English  Literature." 


OF   THE   AFFECTIONS.  99 

(85,)  During  the  course  of  our  life  we  now  and  then 
enjoy  some  pleasures  so  inviting,  and  have  some  encoun- 
ters of  so  tender  a  nature,  that  though  they  are  forbidden, 
it  is  but  natural  to  wish  that  they  were  at  least  allowable. 
Nothing  can  be  more  delightful,  except  it  be  to  abandon 
them  for  virtue's  sake. 


VI. 


OF  SOCIETY  AND  OF  CONVERSATION. 

(i.)  A  MAN  must  be  very  inert  to  have  no  char- 
acter at  all. 

(2.)  A  fool  is  always  troublesome,  a  man  of  sense 
perceives  when  he  pleases  or  is  tiresome  ;  he  goes  away 
the  very  minute  before  it  might  have  been  thought  he 
stayed  too  long. 

(3.)  Mischievous  wags  are  a  kind  of  insects  which 
are  in  everybody's  way  and  plentiful  in  all  countries. 
Real  wit  is  rarely  to  be  met  with,  and  even  if  it  be 
innate  in  a  man,  it  must  be  very  difficult  to  maintain  a 


OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  lOI 

reputation  for  it  during  any  length  of  time;  for,  commonly, 
he  that  makes    us    laugh  does  not  stand  high  in  our     \j 
estimation, 

(4.)  There  are  a  great  many  obscene  minds,  yet  more 
railing  and  satirical,  but  very  few  fastidious  ones.  A 
man  must  have  good  manners,  be  very  polite,  and  even 
have  a  great  deal  of  originality  to  be  able  to  jest  grace- 
fully and  be  felicitous  in  his  remarks  about  trifles  ;  to 
jest  in  such  a  manner  and  to  make  something  out  of 
nothing  is  to  create. 

(5.)   If  in  ordinary  conversation  we  were  to  pay  great 
attention  to  every  dull,   vain,    and  puerile  remark,  we 
should  be  ashamed  to  speak  or  even  to  listen,  and  we 
should  perhaps  condemn  ourselves  to  a  perpetual  silence, 
which  would  be  more  injurious  to  society  than  idle  talk. 
We  must,  therefore,  accommodate  ourselves  to  all  in- 
tellects, bear  as  a  necessary  evil  the  spreading  of  false 
news,  of  vague  reflections  on  the  Government  or  on  the 
interests   of  princes,  listen   to   the  enunciation   of  fine 
sentiments  which  are  always  the  same,  and  even  allow   , 
Arontius  ^  to  utter  wise  saws,  and  Melinda  to  speak  of    ■ 
herself,   her  nerves,  her  headaches,   and   her  want   of    ' 
rest. 

(6.)  We  meet  with  persons  who,  in  their  conversa- 
tion, or  in  the  little  intercourse  we  have  with  them, 
disgust  us  with  their  ridiculous  expressions,  the  novelty, 
and,  if  I  may  say  so,  the  impropriety  of  the  phraseology 
they  use,  as  well  as  by  linking  together  certain  words 
which  never  came  together  but  in  their  mouths,  and 
were  never  intended  by  their  creators  to  have  the 
meaning  they  give  to  them.      In  their  conversation  they 

1  Arontius  is  said  to  be  Perrault.    (See  page  1 4.  note  2. )    Who  Melinda  was 
has  never  been  discovered. 


I02  OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION. 

neither  follow  reason  nor  custom,  but  only  their  own  eccen- 
tricity ;  and  their  desire  always  to  jest,  and  perhaps  to 
shine,  gradually  changes  it  into  a  peculiar  sort  of  dialect 
which  at  last  becomes  natural  to  them  ;  they  accompany 
this  extraordinary  language  by  affected  gesticulations 
and  a  conceited  kind  of  pronunciation.  They  are  all 
highly  delighted  with  themselves,  and  with  their  pleasant 
wit,  of  which,  indeed,  they  are  not  entirely  destitute ; 
but  we  pity  them  for  the  little  they  have,  and,  what  is 
worse,  we  suffer  through  it. 

(7.)  What  do  you  say  ?  What  ?  I  do  not  under- 
stand you.  Will  you  be  kind  enough  to  say  it  again  ? 
I  understand  you  still  less.  Oh,  I  guess  your  meaning 
at  last ;  you  wish  to  tell  me,  Acis,  that  it  is  cold  ! 
Why  don't  you  say  so  ?  You  wish  to  let  me  know  that 
it  rains  or  snows  ;  say  at  once  that  it  rains  or  snows. 
You  think  I  am  looking  well,  and  you  wish  to  con- 
gratulate me ;  say  that  you  think  I  am  looking  well. 
But  you'll  reply  that  it  is  so  plain  and  clear,  anybody 
might  have  said  it.*  What  does  that  signify,  Acis .? 
Is  it  so  very  wrong  to  be  intelligible  in  speaking,  and 
to  speak  as  everybody  does  ?  There  is  one  thing, 
Acis,  which  you,  and  men  like  you,  who  utter  pJi'ebus  ^ 
want  very  much  ;  you  have  not  the  smallest  suspicion 
of  it,  and  I  know  I  am  going  to  surprise  you.  Do  you 
know  what  that  thing  is  ?  It  is  wit.  But  that  is  not 
all.  There  is  too  much  of  something  else  in  you,  which  is 
the  opinion  that  you  have  more  intelligence  than  other 
men  ;  this  is  the  cause  of  all  your  pompous  nonsense, 

1  Phebus  is  nonsensical  and  exaggerated  language,  so  called  after 
Phcebus,  the  sun-god,  on  account  of  his  brilliancy.  The  poet  M.  Regnier 
(1573-1613)  had  already  made  use  of  this  word  ;  it  was  somethiiig  like  the 
language  employed  by  the  Englishman,  John  Lily,  in  his  "  Euphues,  the 
Anatomy  of  Wit,"  etc.,  published  1578-1580. 


OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF   CONVERSATION.  1 03 

of  your  mixed-up  phraseology,  and  of  all  those  grand 
words  without  any  meaning.  The  next  time  I  find  you 
addressing  anybody,  or  entering  a  room,  I  shall  pull 
your  coat-tails  and  whisper  to  you  :  "  Do  not  pretend  to 
be  witty  ;  be  natural,  that  is  better  suited  to  you ;  use, 
if  you  can,  plain  language,  such  as  those  persons  speak 
whom  you  fancy  are  without  wit ;  then,  perhaps,  we 
may  think  you  have  some  yourself." 

(8.)  Who,  that  goes  into  society,  can  help  meeting 
with  certain  vain,  fickle,  familiar,  and  positive  people 
who  monopolise  all  conversation,  and  compel  every  one 
else  to  listen  to  them  ?  They  can  be  heard  in  the 
anteroom,  and  a  person  may  boldly  enter  without  fear 
of  interrupting  them  ;  they  continue  their  story  without 
paying  the  smallest  attention  to  any  comers  or  goers,  or 
to  the  rank  and  quality  of  their  audience  ;  they  silence 
a  man  who  begins  to  tell  an  anecdote,  so  that  they  may 
tell  it  themselves  according  to  their  fashion,  which  is 
the  best ;  they  heard  it  from  Zamet,  from  Ruccellai,  or 
from  Conciniji  whom  they  do  not  know,  to  whom  they 
never  spoke  in  their  lives,  and  whom  they  would 
address  as  "  Your  Excellency,"  if  ever  they  spoke  to 
any  one  of  them.  They  sometimes  will  go  up  to  a 
man  of  the  highest  rank  among  those  who  are  present, 
and  whisper  in  his  ear  some  circumstance  which  nobody 
else  knows,  and  which  they  would  not  have  divulged  to 
others  for  the  world  ;  they  conceal  some  names  to  dis- 
guise the  anecdote  they  relate  and  to  prevent  the  real 
persons  being  found  out  3  you  ask  them  to  let  you  have 

I  La  Bruyere  says  in  a  note,  "They  would  call  them 'Sir.'"  He  also, 
and  on  purpose,  leads  the  reader  astray  by  using  the  names  of  three  cour- 
tiers who  died  some  time  ago  :  Zamet,  a  favourite  of  Catherine  de  Medici 
and  Henri  IV.,  who  died  in  1614  ;  Ruccellai,  one  of  Concini's  partisans,  who 
lived  till  1627  ;  and  Concini,  Marechal  d'Ancre,  assassinated  in  1617. 


I04  OF   SOCIETY   AND   OF   CONVERSATION. 

these  names,  you  urge  them  in  vain.  There  are  some 
things  they  must  not  tell,  and  some  persons  whom 
they  cannot  name ;  they  have  given  their  word  of 
honour  not  to  do  so  ;  it  is  a  secret,  a  mystery  of  the 
greatest  importance ;  moreover,  you  ask  an  impossi- 
bility. You  might  wish  to  learn  something  from  them, 
but  they  know  neither  the  facts  nor  the  persons.^ 

(9.)  Arrias  has  read  and  seen  everything,  at  least  he 
would  lead  you  to  think  so  ;  he  is  a  man  of  universal 
knowledge,  or  pretends  to  be,  and  would  rather  tell  a 
falsehood  than  be  silent  or  appear  to  ignore  anything. 
Some  person  is  talking  at  meal-time  in  the  house  of  a 
man  of  rank  of  a  northern  court ;  he  interrupts  and 
prevents  him  telling  what  he  knows  ;  he  goes  hither 
and  thither  in  that  distant  country  as  if  he  were  a  native 
of  it ;  he  discourses  about  the  habits  of  its  court,  the 
native  women,  the  laws  and  customs  of  the  land  ;  he 
tells  many  little  stories  which  happened  there,  thinks 
them  very  entertaining,  and  is  the  first  to  laugh  loudly 
at  them.  Somebody  presumes  to  contradict  him,  and 
clearly  proves  to  him  that  what  he  says  is  untrue. 
Arrias  is  not  disconcerted ;  on  the  contrary,  he  grows 
angry  at  the  interruption,  and  exclaims  :  "  I  aver  and 
relate  nothing  but  what  I  know  on  excellent  authority ; 
I  had  it  from  Sethon,  the  French  ambassador  at  that 
court,  who  only  a  few  days  ago  came  back  to  Paris,  and 
is  a  particular  friend  of  mine  ;  I  asked  him  several 
questions,  and  he  replied  to  them  all  without  concealing 
anything."  He  continues  his  story  with  greater  con- 
fidence than  he  began  it,  till  one  of  the  company  informs 
him  that  the  gentleman  whom  he  has  been  contradict- 

1  Some  traits  of  this  character  apply  to  Saumery,  a  gentleman-in-waiting 
of  the  Duke  of  Burgundy,  a  grandson  of  Louis  XIV. 


OF   SOCIETY    AND   OF   CONVERSATION.  105 

•ing  was  Sethon  himself,  but  lately  arrived  from  his 
embassy.^ 

(10.)  In  conversation  there  is  a  middle  course  be- 
tween a  certain  baclcwardness  in  speaking  or  a  kind  of 
incogitancy  which  leads  us  to  wander  away  from  the 
subject  under  discussion,  so  as  to  make  us  ask'untimely 
questions  or  return  silly  answers,  and  between  paying 
too  great  attention  to  the  least  word  said,  in  order  to 
improve  upon  it,  to  joke  about  it,  to  discover  in  it  some 
mystery  hidden  to  all  others,  to  find  something  shrewd 
and  subtle  in  it,  only  to  have  an  opportunity  of  showing 
how  clever  we  are. 

(11.)  Any  one  who  is  infatuated  with  himself  and 
quite  convinced  he  is. very  clever,  only  shows  that  he 
has  but  very  little  intelligence  or  none  at  all.  It  is  a 
misfortune  for  a  man  to  listen  to  the  conversation  of 
such  a  person.  What  a  great  many  affected  phrases 
he  has  to  endure  !  How  many  of  those  fanciful  words 
which  appear  of  a  sudden,  live  for  a  short  time,  and  then 
are  never  heard  again  !  If  such  a  person  relates  some 
trifling  event,  it  is  not  so  much  to  give  some  information 
to  his  hearers,  as  merely  for  the  honour  of  telling  it  and 
of  telling  it  cleverly.  He  amplifies  it  till  it  becomes  a 
romance ;  he  makes  the  people  connected  with  it  think 
as  he  does  ;  he  puts  his  own  trivial  expressions  in  their 
mouths,  and  renders  them,  like  himself,  very  talkative  ; 
he  falls  then  into  some  parentheses  which  may  pass 
for  episodes,  and  by  which  speaker  and  hearers  forget 
what  the  story  really  was  about.  It  is  difficult  to  say 
what  might  have  become  of  them,  had   not   somebody 

1  Such  an  adventure  is  said  to  have  happened  to  a  certain  conseiller  ait 
chAtelei,  Robert  de  Chatillon.  Montesquieu,  in  his  Lettres  Persartes, 
describes  a  similar  character. 


Io6  OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION. 

fortunately  come  in  to  break  up  the  company  and  put 
an  end  to  the  narrative. 

(i2.)  Theodectes  ^  is  heard  in  the  anteroom;  the 
nearer  he  comes  the  more  he  raises  his  voice;  he  enters, 
he  laughs,  he  shouts,  he  vociferates ;  everybody  stops 
his  ears  ;  he  is  a  mere  thunderer,  and  no  less  to  be 
dreaded  for  what  he  says  as  for  the  loud  tone  in  which 
he  speaks.  He  becomes  quiet  and  less  boisterous  only 
to  stammer  out  some  idle  talk  and  some  nonsense.  So 
little  regard  has  he  for  time,  individuals,  or  decency,  that 
he  offends  every  one  without  intending  it ;  b*fore  he 
has  taken  a  seat  he  has  already  insulted  the  whole 
company.  When  dinner  is  served,  he  is  the  first  to 
sit  down,  and  always  in  the  place  of  honour  ;  the  ladies 
are  to  the  right  and  left  of  him,  but  he  eats,  drinks, 
talks,  banters,  and  interrupts  every  one  at  the  same 
time ;  he  has  no  respect  for  any  one,  neither  for  master 
nor  guests,  and  takes  advantage  of  the  foolish  way  they 
look  up  to  him.  Is  it  he  or  Euthydemes  who  is  the 
host?  He  assumes  all  authority  while  at  dinner ;  and 
it  is  better  to  give  way  to  him  than  to  quarrel  with 
him  about  it.  Neither  eating  nor  drinking  improve  his 
temper.  If  some  gambling  is  going  on,  and  if  he  wins, 
he  banters  his  antagonist  and  insults  him  ;  the  laughers 
are  on  his  side,  and  there  is  no  sort  of  folly  they  do  not 
overlook  in  him.  At  last  I  leave  him  and  go  away, 
unable  to  bear  any  longer  with  Theodectes  and  those 
who  bear  with  him. 

(13.)  Troilus  is  useful  to  those  who  have  too  much 
wealth  ;  he  eases  them  of  their  onerous  superfluity,  and 
saves  them  the  trouble  of  hoarding  up  money,  of  making 

1  Theodectes  is  the  Count  d'Aubigne.    See  page  63,  note  4. 


OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  1 07 

contracts,  locking  trunks,  carrj'ing  keys  about,  and  of 
dreading  to  be  robbed  by  servants.  He  assists  theni  in 
their  pleasures,  and  afterwards  is  able  to  serve  them  in 
their  passions  ;  in  a  short  time  he  regulates  and  dictates 
their  conduct ;  he  is  the  oracle  of  the  house,  whose 
decisions  are  anxiously  expected,  nay,  even  anticipated 
and  surmised  ;  he  orders  a  slave  to  be  punished,  and  he 
is  flogged ;  another  to  be  freed,  and  he  is  set  at  liberty. 
If  a  parasite  does  not  make  him  laugh,  he  perhaps  does 
not  please  him,  and  therefore  must  be  dismissed.  The 
master  of  the  house  may  consider  himself  lucky  if 
Troilus  leaves  him  his  wife  and  children.  If  at  table  he 
declares  that  a  certain  dish  is  excellent,  the  master  and 
the  guests,  who  did  not  pay  much  attention  to  it,  find  it 
also  excellent,  and  cannot  eat  enough  of  it ;  if,  on  the 
contrary,  he  says  of  some  other  dish  that  it  is  insipid, 
those  who  were  just  beginning  to  enjoy  it  dare  not 
swallow  the  piece  they  had  in  their  mouths,  but  throw 
it  on  the  floor ;  ^  every  eye  is  on  him,  and  every  one 
observes  his  looks  and  his  countenance  before  giving  an 
opinion  on  the  wine  or  the  dishes  before  them.  Do  not 
look  for  him  anywhere  else  but  in  the  house  of  an 
opulent  man,  whose  adviser  he  is  ;  there  he  eats,  sleeps, 
digests  his  food,  quarrels  with  his  servant,  gives  audience 
to  those  whom  he  employs,  and  puts  off  his  creditors  ; 
he  lays  down  the  law  in  the  drawing-room,  and  receives 
there  the  adulation  and  homage  of  those  persons,  who, 
more  cunning  than  the  rest,  only  wish  to  curry  favour 
with  the  master  through  Troilus'  intercession.  If  any 
one  enters  who  is  unfortunate  enough  to  have  a  coun- 

1  It  was  the  custom  in  La  Bruyere's  time,  even  among  the  upper  classes, 
to  throw  on  the  floor  what  was  left  on  the  plates  or  in  the  glasses.  See  also 
the  character  of  Menalcas,  chapter  xi.,  "  Of  Men,"  §  7. 


I08  OF   SOCIETY   AND   OF   CONVERSATION. 

tenance  which  Troilus  does  not  like,  he  frowns  and  turns 
away  his  head  ;  if  a  stranger  accosts  him,  he  sits  still, 
and  if  the  latter  sits  down  close  to  him,  he  leaves  his 
seat  ;  if  he  talks  to  him,  he  does  not  reply,  and  if  he 
continues  to  speak,  Troilus  stalks  away  into  another 
chamber  ;  if  the  stranger  follows  him,  he  makes  for  the 
stairs,  and  would  rather  climb  from  one  storey  to  another 
or  throw  himself  out  of  a  window,  than  encounter  a 
man  whose  face  and  voice  he  dislikes.  Both  are  very 
charming  in  Troilus,  and  he  has  turned  them  to  good 
account  to  insinuate  himself  or  to  overcome  a  difficulty. 
At  last  he  considers  everything  unworthy  of  his  attention, 
and  he  scorns  to  keep  his  position  ^  or  to  continue  to 
please  by  exercising  any  of  those  talents  by  which  he 
first  brought  himself  into  notice.  It  is  a  condescension 
if  sometimes  he  leaves  off  his  musings  and  his  taci- 
turnity to  contradict,  and  deigns  once  a  day  to  show 
his  wit,  though  only  to  criticise.  Do  not  expect  him 
to  listen  to  what  you  may  have  to  say,  to  be  courteous, 
or  to  commend  you,  for  you  are  not  even  sure  that  he 
will  permit  you  to  approve  him,  or  allow  you  to  be 
polite.  2 

(14.)  Do  not  interrupt  a  stranger  whom  you  meet 
by  chance  in  a  stage-coach,  at  an  entertainment,  or  at 
any  public  exhibition  ;  and  if  you  listen  to  him,  it  will 
not  be  long  before  you'll  know  who  he  is  ;  he'll  tell  you 
his  name,  his  residence,  his  native  country,  what  his 
property  is  worth,  his  position,  and  his  father's,  his 
mother's  family,  his  kindred,  his  family  connections,  and 

1  II  est  au-dessus  de  vouloir  se  soutenir,  literally,  he  is  above  wishing  to 
keep  himself  up.     This  expression  seems  to  be  peculiar  to  La  Bruyere. 

2  No  suggestion  has  ever  been  made  as  to  what  person  is  portrayed  as 
Troilus ;  still  it  seems  to  have  been  intended  by  our  author  for  one  of  his 
contemporaries. 


OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  1 09 

even  his  coat-of-arms  ;  for  he  will  soon  let  you  know  that 
he  is  nobly  born,  and  that  he  has  a  castle  beautifully 
furnished,  a  suitable  retinue,  and  a  carriage.^ 

(15.)  Some  men  speak  one  moment  before  they 
think ;  others  tediously  study  everything  they  say,  and 
in  conversation  bore  us  as  painfully  as  was  the  travail 
of  their  mind  ;  they  are,  as  it  were,  made  up  of  phrases 
and  quaint  expressions,  whilst  their  gestures  are  as 
affected  as  their  behaviour.  They  call  themselves 
"  purists,"  2  and  do  not  venture  to  say  the  most  trifling 
word  not  in  use,  however  expressive  it  may  be.  No- 
thing comes  from  them  worth  remembering,  nothing 
is  spontaneous  and  unrestrained ;  they  speak  correctly,^ 
but  they  are  very  tiresome. 

(16.)  The  true  spirit  of  conversation  consists  more  in 
bringing  out  the  cleverness  of  others  than  in  showing  a 
great  deal  of  it  yourself;  he  who  goes  away  pleased 
with  himself  and  his  own  wit  is  also  greatly  pleased  with 
you.  Most  men  rather  please  than  admire  you ;  they 
seek  less  to  be  instructed,  and  even  to  be  amused,  than 
to  be  praised  and  applauded  ;  the  most  delicate  of 
pleasures  is  to  please  another  person. 

(17.)  Too  much  imagination  is  to  be  avoided  in  our 
conversation  and  in  our  writings,  as  it  often  gives  rise 
to  idle  and  puerile  ideas,  neither  tending  to  perfect  our 
taste  nor  to  improve  our  conduct.  Our  thoughts  should 
originate  from  sound  sense  and  reasoning,  and  always 
be  the  result  of  our  judgment. 


1  A  certain  boasting  Abb^  de  Vasse  is  meant,  who  refused  the  bishopric  of 
Mans,  and  died  in  1716  at  the  age  of  sixty-five. 

2  The  author's  note  says,  "A  kind  of  people  who  pretend  to  be  very  nice 
in  their  language." 

3  Proprement,  in  the  original,  was  in  La  Bruyere'stime  generally  used  for 
"elegantly,"  "correctly." 


no  OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION. 

(i8.)  It  is  a  sad  thing  when  men  have  neither  enough 
intelligence  to  speak  well  nor  enough  sense  to  hold 
their  tongues ;  this  is  the  root  of  all  impertinence. 

(19.)  To  say  simply  that  a  certain  thing  is  good  or 
bad,  and  to  state  the  reasons  for  its  being  so,  requires 
some  common-sense  and  power  of  expression,  which  is 
not  so  easily  found.  A  much  shorter  way  is  to  give 
one's  opinion  peremptorily,  which  is  a  convincing  proof 
a  man  is  right  in  his  statement,  namely,  that  the  thing 
is  execrable  or  wonderful. 

(20.)  Nothing  is  more  displeasing  to  Heaven  and  to 
men  than  to  confirm  everything  said  in  conversation, 
and  even  the  most  trifling  subjects,  with  long  and  dis- 
gusting oaths.  Whether  a  gentleman  merely  says  *'  Yes  " 
or  "  No,"  he  deserves  to  be  believed ;  his  reputation 
swears  for  him,  adds  weight  to  his  words,  and  obtains 
for  him  every  confidence.^ 

(2 1.)  He  who  continually  affirms  he  is  a  man  of  honour 
and  honest  as  well,  that  he  wrongs  no  man  but  wishes 
the  harm  he  has  done  to  others  to  fall  on  himself,  and 
raps  out  an  oath  to  be  believed,  does  not  even  know 
how  to  imitate  an  honest  man. 

An  honest  man,  with  all  his  modesty,  cannot  prevent 
people  saying  of  him  what  a  dishonest  man  says  of  him- 
self. 

(22.)  Cldon^  talks  always  rather  rudely  or  inaccu- 
rately ;  he  does  either  the  one  or  the  other  ;  but  he 
says  he  cannot  help  it,  and  that  it  is  his  natural  dispo- 
sition to  speak  just  as  he  thinks. 

1  Oaths  were  more  commonly  used  by  the  upper  classes  in  the  seventeenth 
century  than  they  are  now. 

2  Cledn  is  supposed  to  have  been  a  certain  financier  Monnerot,  who  died 
in  prison  rather  than  pay  a  fine  of  two  million  francs,  to  which  he  had  been 
condemned  by  a  court  of  justice. 


OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  1 1  I 

(23.)  There  are  such  things  as  to  speak  well,  to  speak 
easily,  to  speak  correctly,  and  to  speak  seasonably.  We 
offend  against  the  last  way  of  speaking  if  we  mention  a 
sumptuous  entertainment  we  have  just  been  present  at 
before  people  who  have  not  had  enough  to  eat ;  if  we 
boast  of  our  good  health  before  invalids  ;  if  we  talk  of 
our  riches,  our  income,  and  our  fine  furniture  to  a  man 
who  has  not  so  much  as  an  income  or  a  dwelling ;  in  a 
word,  if  we  speak  of  our  prosperity  before  people  who 
are  wretched ;  such  a  conversation  is  too  much  for 
them,  and  the  comparison  which  they  then  make  between 
their  condition  and  ours  is  very  painful. 

(24.)  "  As  for  you,"  says  Euthyphron,i  "  you  are 
rich,  or  ought  to  be  so,  for  you  have  a  yearly  income  of 
ten  thousand  livres,'^  all  from  land.  I  think  that  glorious ! 
charming  !  and  a  man  could  be  happy  with  much  less." 
The  person  who  talks  in  this  fashion  has  fifty  thousand 
livres  a  year,  and  thinks  he  has  not  half  what  he 
deserves.  He  settles  what  you'll  have  to  pay,  values 
what  you  are  worth,  determines  what  you  have  to  spend  ; 
and  if  he  thought  you  deserved  a  better  fortune,  and 
even  such  a  one  as  he  himself  aspires  to,  he  would 
be  certain  to  wish  it  to  you.  He  is  not  the  only  man 
who  makes  such  wretched  estimations  or  such  odious 
comparisons ;  the  world  is  full  of  Euthyphrons. 

(25.)  A  person  inclined  to  the  usual  flattery,  and 
accustomed  to  praise  and  exaggeration,  congratulates  ^ 

1  This  personage  is  said  to  stand  for  Constantin  Heudebert  du  Buisson, 
appointed  intetuiant  des  finances  the  same  year  (1690)  the  seventh  edition 
of  the  "Characters"  was  published.     See  also  page  153,  }  63. 

2  The  iivre  f'arists,  probably  meant  here,  was  equal  in  value  to  thc/ranc, 
first  coined  in  1573,  under  Henri  III.  An  income  of  ten  thousand  francs 
in  La  Bruyere's  time  would  represent  one  of  fifty  thousand  francs  now. 

3  The  original  has  congratuler,  now  only  used  with  a  ridiculous  mean- 
ing attached  to  it. 


112  OF   SOCIETY  AND   OF   CONVERSATION. 

Theodemus  on  a  sermon  he  did  not  hear,  and  of  which 
no  one  had,  as  yet,  given  him  an  account.  He  extols 
his  genius,  his  delivery,  and,  above  all,  his  excellent 
memory,  when,  in  truth,  Theodemus  had  stopped  short 
in  the  middle  of  his  sermon,  and  had  forgotten  what  he 
wished  to  say.i 

(26.)  Some  abrupt,  restless,  conceited  men,  who  are 
unemployed,  and  have  no  manner  of  business  to  call 
them  away,  will  dismiss  you  from  their  presence  in  a 
few  words,  and  only  think  to  get  rid  of  you  ;  you  are, 
still  speaking  to  them,  and  they  are  already  gone  and 
have  disappeared.  They  are  as  impertinent  as  those 
people  who  stop  you  only  to  bore  you ;  but  the  former 
are  perhaps  less  irksome, 

(27.)  To  speak  and  to  ofifend  is  with  some  people 
but  one  and  the  same  thing;  they  are  biting  and  bitter; 
their  words  are  steeped  in  gall  and  wormwood  ;  sneers 
as  well  as  insolent  and  insulting  remarks  flow  from  their 
lips.  It  had  been  well  for  them  had  they  been  born 
mute  or  stupid  ;  the  little  vivacity  and  intelligence  they 
have  prejudices  them  more  than  dulness  does  others  ; 
they  are  not  always  satisfied  with  giving  sharp  answers, 
they  often  attack  arrogantly  those  who  are  present,  and 
damage  the  reputation  of  those  who  are  absent ;  they 
butt  all  round  like  rams,  for  rams,  of  course,  must  use 
their  horns.  We  therefore  do  not  expect,  by  our 
sketch  of  them,  to  change  such  coarse,  restless,  and 
stubborn  individuals.      The  best  thing  a  man  can  do  is 


1  It  is  generally  supposed  Theodemus  was  a  certain  Abbe  de  Drubec,  who 
stopped  short  in  the  middle  of  a  sermon  preached  before  the  court  of 
Louis  XIV.;  others  imagine  it  was  a  hit  at  the  Abbe  Bertier,  who  became 
bishop  of  Blois  in  1697. 


OF    SOCIETY    AND    OF   CONVERSATION.  I13 

to  take  to  his  heels  as  soon  as  he  perceives  them,  witii- 
out  even  turning  round  to  look  behind  him.i 

(28.)  There  are  persons  of  such  a  disposition  or 
character  that  a  man  ought  never  to  be  compromised 
with  them ;  of  such  persons  he  should  complain  as 
little  as  possible,  and  nut  even  be  permitted  to  van- 
quish them  in  arguments. 

{29.)  When  two  persons  have  had  a  violent  quarrel, 
of  whom  one  is  in  the  right  and  tlie  other  is  in  the 
wrong,  the  bystanders,  for  fear  of  being  appealed  to,  or 
through  a  certain  frowardness  which  always  seemed  to 
me  ill-timed,  condemn  both.  This  is  an  important  lesson, 
and  a  weighty  and  necessary  reason  for  going  away,  even 
when  a  coxcomb  is  seen  in  quite  another  direction,  so 
as  to  avoid  sharing  in  his  disgrace. 

(30.)  I  hate  a  man  whom  I  cannot  accost  or  salute 
before  he  bows  to  me,  without  debasing  myself  in  his 
eyes,  or  sharing  in  the  good  opinion  he  has  of  himself. 
Montaigne  would  say  :  2  "I  will  have  elbow-room  :  I 
will  be  courteous  and  affable  according  to  my  fancy, 
without  fear  or  remorse.  I  cannot  strive  against  my 
inclination  nor  go  contrary  to  my  disposition,  which  leads 
me  to  address  myself  to  every  one  whom  I  meet.  If 
such  a  person  is  my  equal  and  not  my  enemy,  I  anticipate 
his  courtesy  ;  I  ask  him  about  his  temper  and  his  health, 
I  offer  him  my  services  without  any  haggling,  and  am  not 
always  on  my  guard,  as  some  people  say.  That  man 
displeases  me  who  by  my  knowledge  of  his  habits  and 
behaviour  deprives   me    of   such  liberty  and    freedom. 


1  In  this  paragraph,  as  well  as  in  the  preceding  one,  some  commentators 
imagine  there  is  an  allusion  to  the  President  Achille  de  Harlay,  so  bitterly 
attacked  by  St.  Simon  in  his  Meinoires.     See  also  page  45,  note  i. 

*  Our  author  says  in  a  noLe,  "  Written  in  imitation  of  Montaigne." 

ti 


114  OF   SOCIETY    AND   OF   CONVERSATION. 

How  should  I  remember,  as  soon  as  I  see  him  afar  off, 
to  put  on  a  grave  and  important  look,  and  to  let  him 
know  that  I  think  I  am  as  good  as  he,  and  better  ?  To 
do  this  I  must  call  to  mind  all  my  good  qualities  and 
points,  and  his  bad  ones,  so  as  to  compare  them  to- 
gether.     This  is  too  much  trouble  for  me,  and  I  am  not 

,  at  all  able  of  showing  such  an  abrupt  and  sudden  pre- 
sence of  mind  ;  even  if  I  had  been  successful  at  first, 
I  am  sure  I  should  give  way  and  lose  my  head  a  second 
time,  for  I  cannot  put  any  restraint  on  myself  nor 
assume  a  certain  haughtiness  for  any  man."  ^ 

(31.)  We  may  be  virtuous,  intelligent,  and  well- 
behaved,  and  yet  be  unbearable.  By  our  manners, 
which  we  consider  of  no  consequence,  the  world  often 

'  forms  either  a  good  or  a  bad  opinion  of  us  ;  a  little  care 
to    appear    obliging    and   polite  will  prevent    its    con- 

/  demning  us.  The  least  thing  is  enough  to  make  people 
believe  that  we  are  proud,  impolite,  haughty,  and  dis- 
obliging ;  but,  on  the  other  hand,  still  less  is  needed 
to  make  them  esteem  us. 

(32.)  Politeness  does  not  always  produce  kindness  of 
heart,  justice,  complacency,  or  gratitude,  but  it  gives  to 
a  man  at  least  the  appearance  of  it,  and  makes  him  seem 
externally  what  he  really  should  be. 

We  may  define  all  the  essentials  of  politeness,  but  we 
cannot  determine  how  and  where  they  should  be  used  ; 
they  depend  on  ordinary  habits  and  customs,  are  con- 
nected with  times  and  places,  and  are  not  the  same  in 
both  sexes  nor  in  different  ranks  of  life ;  intelligence 
alone  cannot  find  this  out ;  politeness  is  acquired  and 

1  The  principal  antiquated  words  in  this  imitation  are  estriver,  to  strive, 
to  quarrel  ;  se  ramentevoir,  to  call  to  mind,  used  by  Moliere  in  the 
Dipit  amoureux  (iii.  4) ;  and  succeder,  to  be  successful,  which,  of  course, 
is  at  present  in  French  reussir. 


OF   SOCIETY    AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  II5 

perfected  by  imitation.  Only  some  persons  are  naturally 
disposed  to  be  polite,  as  others  are  in  acquiring  great 
talents  and  solid  virtue.  Politeness  tends,  undoubtedly, 
to  advance  merit  and  to  render  it  agreeable  ;  a  man 
must  have  very  eminent  qualities  to  hold  his  own  without 
being  polite. 

The  very  essence  of  politeness  seems  to  be  to  take 
care  that  by  our  words  and  actions  we  make  other  people 
pleased  with  us  as  well  as  with  themselves. 

(33.)  It  is  an  offence  against  politeness  to  bestow 
excessive  praise  on  a  person's  singing  or  playing  before 
any  other  who  has  sung  or  played  for  you,  or  to  com- 
mend another  poet  in  the  presence  of  those  who  have 
read  you  their  verses. 

(34.)  A  man  may  be  giving  entertainments  and  feasts 
to  certain  persons,  may  make  them  presents,  and  let  them 
enjoy  themselves,  and  he  may  do  this  well ;  but  he  will 
do  much  better  by  acting  according  to  their  inclinations. 

(35.)  It  is  more  or  less  rude  to  scorn  indiscrimi- 
nately all  kinds  of  praise  ;  we  ought  to  be  proud  of  that 
which  comes  from  honest  men,  who  praise  sincerely 
those  things  in  us  which  are  really  commendable. 

(36.)  An  intelligent  man,  who  is  naturally  proud, 
abates  nothing  of  his  pride  and  haughtiness  because  he 
is  poor ;  on  the  contrary,  if  anything  will  mollify  him 
and  make  him  more  pliant  and  sociable,  it  is  a  little 
prosperity. 

{37-)  Not  to  be  able  to  bear  with  all  bad-tempered 
people  with  whom  the  world  is  crowded,  shows  that  a 
man  has  not  a  good  temper  himself :  small  change  is 
as  necessary  in  business  as  golden  coin. 

(38.)  To  live  with  people  who  have  been  quarrelling 
acd  to   whose   complaints   you  have   to  listen,  is  like 


Il6  OF   SOCIETY   AND   OF   CONVERSATION. 

being  in  a  court  of  justice  from  morning  till  night  listen- 
ing to  pleadings  and  lawsuits. 

(39.)  Two  persons  had  all  their  lives  been  very 
intimate  with  one  another ;  their  incomes  were  in 
common,  they  lived  together,  and  were  never  out  of 
one  another's  sight.  After  fourscore  years  they  thought 
it  was  time  to  part  and  put  an  end  to  their  intimacy  ; 
they  had  then  but  one  day  to  live,  and  dared  not  attempt 
to  pass  it  together  :  they  hastened  to  break  before  death, 
as  their  complacency  would  hold  out  no  longer.  They 
would  have  been  good  models  had  they  not  lived  so 
long,  for  had  they  died  one  moment  sooner,  they  still 
would  have  been  good  friends  and  have  left  behind 
them  a  rare  example  of  perseverance  in  friendship.^ 

(40.)  Families  are  often  disturbed  by  mistrust,  jeal- 
ousy, and  antipathy,  while  outwardly  they  seem  happy, 
peaceable,  and  cheerful,  and  we  suppose  they  enjoy  a 
tranquillity  which  does  not  exist ;  there  are  very  few 
who  can  bear  investigation.  The  visit  you  pay  only 
interrupts  a  domestic  quarrel  which  awaits  but  your 
departure  to  break  out  afresh. 

(41.)  In  all  societies  common-sense  always  gives 
way  first.  The  most  sensible  people  often  are  swayed 
by  a  most  foolish  and  eccentric  personage  ;  they  study 
his  weakness,  his  temper,  his  fancies,  and  put  up  with 
them  ;  they  avoid  thwarting  him,  and  everybody  gives 
him  his  way  ;  when  his  countenance  betrays  he  is  cheer- 
ful, he  is  commended  ;  they  are  grateful  to  him  for  not 
being  always  insufferable  ;  he  is  feared,  considered, 
obeyed,  and  sometimes  beloved. 

1  According  to  all  the  "  Keys,"  this  paragraph  refers  to  a  separation  of 
two  old  friends,  Courtois  and  Saint- Romain,  both  councillors  of  state;  but 
they  were  still  friends  when  the  "  Cl:aracters  "  were  published. 


OF   SOCIETY    AND   OF   CONVERSATION.  I17 

(42.)  None  but  those  persons  who  have  had  aged  rela- 
tives, or  those  who  have  them  still,  and  whose  heirs 
they  may  become,  can  tell  what  they  had,  or  have  now, 
to  endure. 

(43.)  Cleantes  ^  is  a  very  worthy  man  ;  he  has  taken 
unto  himself  a  wife,  who  is  the  best  and  most  sensible 
person  in  the  world  ;  both,  in  their  ways,  are  the  life  and 
soul  of  the  company  they  keep  ;  a  more  straightforward 
and  more  polite  behaviour  than  theirs  is  nowhere  to  be 
met  with.  They  are  to  part  to-morrow,  and  the  deed  of 
separation  is  already  drawn  up  at  the  lawyer's.  Surely 
they  must  possess  certain  merits  which  do  not  harmonise 
together  and  certain  virtues  which  are  incompatible. 

(44.)  A  man  may  be  sure  of  the  dowry,  the  jointure, 
and  his  marriage  settlements,  but  scarcely  of  the  con- 
tract the  parents  have  entered  upon  to  board  and 
lodge  the  young  couple  for  a  certain  time  ;  2  for  that 
depends  on  the  frail  harmony  between  the  mother-in- 
law  and  the  daughter-in-law,  which  often  ends  the  first 
year  of  the  marriage. 

(45.)  A  father-in-law  loves  both  his  son  and  daughter- 
in-law,  a  mother-in-law  her  son  and  not  her  daughter-in- 
law  ;  the  latter  pays  her  back  in  her  own  coin. 

(46.)  What  a  step-mother  loves  the  least  in  the  wide 
world  are  her  husband's  children ;  the  fonder  she  is  of 
her  husband  the  worse  step-mother  she  shows  herself. 

Step-mothers  make  of  towns  and  villages  complete 
deserts,  and  stock  the  country  with  more  beggars, 
vagrants,  servants,  and  slaves,  than  poverty  does. 

(47.)  G  .   .  .  and  H  .  .  .  are  neighbours,  living  in 

1  Some  persons,  now  totally  unknown,  have  been  supposed  to  represent 
Cleantes  :  such  as  a  certain  M.  Loyseau,  receveur  ^infral  des  finances  in 
Brittany  ;  a  M.  de  I'Escalcpier,  conseilUr  au  parUtnent,  and  others. 

2  Such  a  contract  was  called  les  noumtures  in  French  legal  phraseology. 


H8  OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF   CONVERSATION. 

the  country ;  i  their  lands  are  contiguous ;  they  dwell 
in  a  secluded  and  solitary  spot.  Far  from  towns  and 
all  intercourse  with  men,  we  might  have  thought  that 
the  dread  of  being  completely  estranged  from  the  world 
and  from  all  society  should  have  kept  up  their  mutual 
intimacy ;  but  it  is  difficult  to  say  what  trifling  circum- 
stance has  caused  their  being  at  variance,  renders  them 
implacable,  and  transmits  their  hatred  to  their  descend- 
ants. Relatives,  or  even  brothers,  never  quarrelled  about 
a  thing  of  less  consequence. 

Suppose  there  were  but  two  men  on  this  habitable 
globe,  the  sole  possessors  of  it,  who  should  divide  it 
between  them,  even  then  I  am  convinced  that  soon  some 
cause  of  disagreement  would  spring  up,  though  it  were 
only  about  boundaries. 

(48.)  It  is  often  easier  as  well  as  more  advantageous 
to  conform  ourselves  to  other  men's  opinions  than  to 
bring  them  over  to  ours.    . 

(49.)  I  am  now  approaching  a  little  town,  and  I  am 
already  on  a  hill  whence  I  discover  it.  It  is  built  on 
a  slope,  a  river  washes  its  walls  and  then  meanders 
through  a  lovely  meadow  ;  a  dense  forest  shelters  it 
from  cold  winds  and  northern  blasts.  The  weather  is 
so  bright  that  I  can  count  its  towers  and  steeples,  and 
it  seems,  as  it  were,  painted  on  the  slope  of  the  hill.  I 
exclaim  :  "  How  agreeable  must  it  be  to  dwell  underneath 


1  G  ...  is  supposed  to  stand  for  Frangois  Vedeau  de  Grammont,  conseilUr 
au  parUment,  or  for  his  father-in-law,  Philippe  Genoud  de  Guiberville,  and 
H  .  .  .  for  Charles  Herve,  doyen  du  parlement :  and  the  quarrel  arose 
about  the  right  of  fishing  in  a  brook.  Vedeau  lost  liis  case,  and  was  con- 
victed of  having  falsified  certain  legal  documents.  Only  a  few  years  before  La 
Bruyere's  death  he  fired  at  different  times  on  a  legal  officer  and  some  soldiers 
who  were  attempting  to  arrest  him  in  his  house  in  Paris,  killed  one  and 
wounded  another,  was  finally  imprisoned,  dismissed  from  his  office,  and 
banished  from  the  kingdom. 


OF    SOCIETY    AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  1 19 

such  a  pure  sky  and  in  such  a  delightful  abode ! "  I 
enter  the  town,  and  have  not  spent  there  above  two  or 
three  nights  when  I  feel  I  am  just  like  its  inhabitants  ;  I 
long  to  get  away  from  it. 

(50.)  There  is  a  certain  thing  which  has  never  yet 
been  seen  under  the  canopy  of  heaven,  and,  in  all 
likelihood,  never  will  be :  it  is  a  small  town  without 
various  parties,  where  all  the  families  are  united  and 
all  relations  visit  one  another  without  reserve,  where  a 
marriage  does  not  engender  a  civil  war,  where  there  are 
no  disputes  about  precedence  at  the  offertory,^  the  carry- 
ing of  the  censer,  or  the  giving  of  a  cake  to  the  church 
to  be  consecrated  and  distributed  during  mass,  as  well 
as  about  processions  and  funerals  :  whence  gossiping, 
falsehoods,  and  slandering  are  banished ;  where  the 
bailli  and  the  president  of  the  court,  the  ihis  and  the 
assesseurs'^  are  on  speaking  terms  together;  where  the 
dean  is  well  with  the  canons,  the  canons  do  not  disdain 
the  choristers,  and  the  choristers  bear  with  the  singing- 
boys. 

(51.)  Country  people  and  fools  are  apt  to  get  angry, 
and  to  fancy  you  make  fun  of  them  or  despise  them. 
You  should  never  venture  on  the  most  innocent  and 
inoffensive  joke,  unless  it  be  with  people  of  culture  or 
intelligence. 

(52.)  A  man  should  not  pretend  to  show  his  talents 
ill  the  society  of  men  of  rank  ;   their  very  rank  forbids 


1  L'offrande,  Tencens  et  le pain  benii,  in  the  original.  In  small  Roman 
Catholic  towns  there  were  formerly  always  quarrels  about  the  sum  to  be  given 
to  the  vicar  when  kissing  the  "patena,"  about  the  carrying  of  the  censer, 
and  above  all,  whose  turn  it  was  to  give  a  cake  to  be  consecrated  by  the 
officiating  clergyman. 

2  A  bailli  was  a  magistrate  who  judged  certain  cases,  an  Hu  a  sort  of 
assessor  of  various  taxes,  and  an  assesseur  an  assistant  magistrate. 


120  OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION. 

it  ;  nor  with  people  of  inferior  degree  who  repel  you  by 
being  always  on  their  guard. 

(53,)  Men  of  merit  discover,  discern,  and  find  out 
each  other  reciprocally ;  he  who  would  be  esteemed 
should  frequent  persons  who  are  themselves  estimable. 

(54.)  He  who  is  of  so  lofty  a  rank  as  to  be  above 
repartee,  ought  never  to  joke  in  a  racy  kind  of  way. 

(55.)  There  are  some  little  failings  which  we  freely 
abandon  to  censure,  and  about  which  we  do  not  dislike 
being  bantered  ;  when  we  banter  others  we  should  select 
failings  of  the  same  kind. 

(56.)  It  is  a  fool's  privilege  to  laugh  at  an  intelligent 
man  ;  he  is  in  society  what  a  jester  is  at  court — of  no 
consequence  whatever. 

(57.)   Banter  is  often  a  proof  of  want  of  intelligence. 

(58.)  You  fancy  a  man  your  dupe,  but  if  he  only 
pretends  to  be  so,  who  is  the  greatest  dupe,  you  or 
he? 

(59.)  If  you  observe  carefully  those  people  who  praise 
'  nobody,  who  are  always  finding  fault,  and  are  never 
i  satisfied  with  any  one,  you  will  discover  them  to  be 
;'     persons  with  whom  nobody  is  satisfied. 

(60.)  The  proud  and  disdainful  will  find  precisely  in 
society  the  contrary  of  what  they  expect,  which  is  to  be 
esteemed. 

(61.)  The  pleasure  of  social  intercourse  amongst 
friends  is  kept  up  by  a  similarity  of  morals  and  man- 
ners, and  by  slender  differences  in  opinion  about  science  ; 
this  confirms  us  in  our  sentiments,  exercises  our  faculties 
or  instructs  us  through  arguments. 

(62.)  Two  persons  will  not  be  friends  long  if  they 
are  not  inclined  to  pardon  each  other's  little  failings. 

(63.)  How    many  fine    and    useless    arguments    are 


OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  121 

laid  before  a  person  in  great  affliction  to  attempt  to 
soothe  him  !  Things  from  without  which  we  call  events 
are  sometimes  too  strong  for  arguments  and  nature. 
Eat,  drink,  do  not  kill  yourself  with  grief,  think  only 
to  live,  are  magnificent  admonitions,  and  impracticable 
as  well.  If  we  say  to  a  man  that  it  is  not  wise  to 
unsettle  his  mind  so  much,  do  we  not  tell  him  in  reality 
that  he  is  a  fool  for  being  so  unfortunate  ? 

(64.)  Advice  which  is  necessary  in  all  matters  of 
business,  is  sometimes  hurtful  in  social  affairs  to  those 
who  give  it,  and  useless  to  the  persons  to  whom  it  is 
given.  You  observe,  perhaps,  faults  in  manners  and 
morals  which  are  either  not  acknowledged,  or,  perhaps, 
considered  virtues  ;  you  blot  out  some  passages  in  a 
composition  which  please  the  author  the  most,  and  in 
which  he  thinks  he  has  surpassed  himself.  By  those 
means  you  lose  the  confidence  of  your  friend  without 
making  him  better  or  wiser, 

(65.)  Not  long  since  certain  persons  of  both  sexes 
formed  a  society  for  intellectual  conversation  and  inter- 
change of  ideas. 1  They  left  to  the  vulgar  herd  the  art 
of  talking  intelligibly  ;  an  expression  used  by  them,  and 
which  was  not  very  clear,  was  followed  by  another  still 
more  obscure,  which  was  improved  on  by  others  still  more 
enigmatic,  which  were  always  crowned  with  prolonged 
applause,  so  that  at  last,  by  what  they  were  pleased 
to  call  refinements,  sentiments,  turn  and  delicacy  of 
expression,  they  succeeded  in  becoming  unintelligible  to 
others  and  to  themselves.  Common-sense,  judgment, 
memory,  or  the  smallest  capacity  were  unnecessary 
in  their  conversation  ;  all  that  was  wanted  was  a  certain 

1  This  is  an  allusion  to  the  society  of  the  Hotel  de  Rambouillet  and  to 
the  so-called  precieuses. 


122  OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION. 

amount  of  intellect,  and  that  not  of  the  right  sort,  but 
of  a  spurious  kind,  and  in  which  imagination  was  too 
predominant. 

(66.)  I  know  it,  Theobaldus,!  you  have  grown  old  ; 
but  would  you  have  me  think  you  decline,  that  you 
are  no  longer  a  poet  nor  a  wit,  that  you  are  now  as 
bad  a  critic  of  all  kind  of  writings  as  you  are  a  wretched 
author,  and  that  your  conversation  is  neither  ingenuous 
nor  refined  ?  Your  careless  and  conceited  behaviour 
reassures  me,  and  convinces  me  of  my  error.  You  are 
the  same  to-day  as  you  ever  were,  and  perhaps  better ; 
for  if  you  are  so  brisk  and  vivacious  at  your  age,  what 
name,  Theobaldus,  did  you  deserve  in  your  youth,  when 
you  were  the  pet  and  the  caprice  of  certain  ladies  who 
only  swore  by  you,  believed  every  word  you  uttered,  and 
then  exclaimed,  '•  It  is  delightful  !     What  has  he  said  ?" 

(67.)  We  frequently  speak  hastily  in  conversation, 
often  through  vanity  and  natural  inclination,  seldom 
with  the  necessary  caution,  and  only  anxious  to  reply  to 
what  we  have  not  heard  ;  we  follow  our  own  ideas,  and 
explain  them  without  the  smallest  deference  for  other 
men's  arguments  ;  we  are  very  far  from  finding  out  the 
truth,  as  we  are  not  yet  agreed  upon  what  we  are  look- 
ing for.  If  any  man  could  hear  such  conversations  and 
write  them  down,  he  would  now  and  then  find  many 
good  things  said  without  the  smallest  result. 

(68.)  Some  time  ago  a  sort  of  insipid  and  puerile 
conversation   was   in   fashion,   which  turned   on   trivial 

1  It  is  generally  supposed  that  here  Isaac  de  Benserade  (1612-1691)  is 
meant,  who  was  pre-eminently  a  court  poet,  and  wrote  a  great  deal  of  namby- 
pamby  poetry,  now  deservedly  forgotten.  His  "  Character  "  appeared  for 
the  first  time  in  the  sixth  edition  of  La  Bruyere's  work,  only  a  few  months 
before  his  death,  when  he  was  seventy-eight  years  old. 


OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF   CONVERSATION.  1 23 

questions  about  the  affections,  and  what  people  please 
to  call  passion  or  tenderness.  The  reading  of  some 
novels  first  introduced  this  talk  amongst  the  most  gentle- 
manly men  in  town  and  at  court,  but  they  soon  dis- 
carded it,  and  then  the  citizens  took  it  up,  as  well  as 
puns  and  plays  on  words.^ 

(69.)  Some  city  ladies  are  so  refined  that  they  do  not 
know  or  dare  not  pronounce  the  names  of  streets,  squares, 
and  public  places,  which  they  think  are  not  noble  enough 
to  be  known.  They  speak  of  the  Louvre^  the  Place  Roy  ale, 
but  they  use  certain  circumlocutions  and  phrases  rather 
than  mention  some  names  ;  and  if,  by  chance,  such  a 
word  escapes  them,  it  is  not  without  some  alteration,  and 
after  some  changes  which  reassure  them  ;  they  are  less 
natural  in  this  than  the  ladies  at  court,  who,  when  they 
have  occasion  to  speak  of  the  Halles^  the  Chdtelet,  or  the 
like,  simply  say  the  Halles  or  the  Chdtelet.'^ 

(70.)  If  people  pretend  sometimes  not  to  remember 
certain  names  which  they  think  obscure,  and  affect  to  spoil 
them  in  the  pronunciation,  it  is  through  the  good  opinion 
they  have  of  their  own  names. 

(71.)  When  we  are  in  a  good  temper,  and  when  we 
can  talk  as  we  like,  we  often  say  silly  things,  which,  in 
truth,  we  do  not  pretend  to  be  anything  else,  and  which 

1  Our  author  draws  a  distinction  between  gentlemen  in  town  and  at 
court,  though  he  mentions  those  in  town  first.  The  silly  novels  he  attacks 
were  those  of  Gomberville  (1600-1647),  of  La  Calprenede  (1610-1663),  and 
above  all  those  of  Mdlle.  de  Scuderi  {1607-1701),  one  of  the  precieuses  of 
the  Hotel  de  Rambouillet,  and  author  of  the  Grand  Cynis  (1650),  CUlie 
(1665),  and  of  many  other  works. 

Sit  seems  to  have  escaped  all  commentators  of  La  Bruyere  that  in  his  time 
it  was  the  fashion  for  the  ladies  at  court  to  call  a  spade  a  spade  with  a  ven- 
geance, and  to  use  very  plain  and  realistic  language,  whilst  the  ''city 
ladies  "  were  not  quite  so  daring ;  moreover,  some  of  the  streets,  squares, 
etc.,  of  Paris  had  very  peculiar  names,  quite  unfit  for  the  mouth  of  any 
modest  woman. 


124  OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION. 

are  considered  very  good,  because  they  are  very  bad.^ 
This  inferior  kind  of  joking,  fit  only  for  the  mob,  has 
already  infected  a  great  part  of  the  youth  at  court.  It 
is  true  we  need  not  fear  it  will  spread  further,  for  it  is 
really  too  insipid  and  coarse  to  thrive  in  a  country 
which  is  the  centre  of  good  taste  and  politeness.  How- 
ever, it  should  be  rendered  distasteful  to  those  who 
employ  it,  for  though  it  is  never  used  seriously,  yet  it 
continually  takes  the  place  of  better  things  in  their 
mind  and  in  their  ordinary  conversation. 

(72.)  Between  saying  bad  things  or  saying  such 
good  things  which  everybody  knows,  and  pretending 
they  are  quite  new,  there  is  so  little  difference  that  I 
do  not  know  which  to  choose. 

(73.)  "  Lucanus  2  has  said  a  pretty  thing.  There  is 
a  fine  expression  in  Claudianus.^  There  is  a  certain 
passage  in  Seneca  ; "  *  and  then  follow  a  good  many 
Latin  words,  often  quoted  before  people  who  do  not 
know  what  they  mean,  though  they  pretend  to  under- 
stand them.  The  right  thing  would  be  to  have  sense 
and  intelligence  ourselves,  for  then  we  might  dispense 
with  the  ancients,  or  after  having  read  them  carefully, 
we  might  still  select  the  best  and  quote  them  per- 
tinently. 

(74.)  Hermagoras  5  knows  not  who  is  king  of  Hun- 


1  By  "silly  things,"  our  author  means  "  plays  on  words,"  called  in  his 
time  equivoques  or  Uirlupinades 

2  Marcus  Annseus  Lucanus,  a  Latin  poet,  who  died  in  the  year  65,  was 
put  to  death  for  his  share  in  Pise's  conspiracy,  at  the  early  age  of  twenty- 
seven. 

3  Claudus  Claudianus  (365-408),  a  Latin  poet. 

*  L.  Annaeus  Seneca,  a  stoic  philosopher,  and  tutor  to  Nero,  was  also  put 
to  death  in  £he  year  65  by  order  of  his  former  pupil. 

5  Hermagoras  is,  according  to  all  commentators,  Paul  Perron,  a  learned 
I'.enedictine,  and  author  of  L'Antiquite  des  tenths  retablie,  etc.     The  old 


OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  125 

gary,  and  wonders  that  no  one  talks  about  the  king  of 
Bohemia.!  Speak  not  to  him  of  the  wars  in  Flanders 
or  in  Holland,^  or,  at  least,  you  must  excuse  him  from 
answering  any  questions  about  them  ;  he  mixes  up  all 
dates  ;  he  neither  knows  when  they  began  nor  ended  ; 
battles  and  sieges  are  all  new  to  him  ;  but  he  is  very 
well  read  in  the  Titans'  war,  and  can  tell  you  its 
progress  and  the  most  trifling  details ;  nothing  has 
escaped  him  ;  he  unravels  in  the  same  way  the  horrible 
chaos  of  the  Babylonian  and  Assyrian  monarchies ;  he 
knows  intimately  the  Egyptians  and  their  dynasties. 
He  never  saw  Versailles,  nor  ever  will ;  but  he  has 
almost  seen  the  tower  of  Babel,  and  counted  its  steps ; 
he  has  found  out  how  many  architects  were  employed 
about  that  building,  and  even  has  their  names  at  his 
fingers'  ends.  He  believes  Henri  IV.  to  be  a  son  of 
Henri  I II. ,3  and  neglects  to  know  anything  about  the 
reigning  houses  of  France,  Austria,  and  Bavaria.  He 
asks  what  is  the  use  of  studying  such  trifles ;  but  he 
can  quote  to  you  all  the  kings  of  Media  and  Babylon, 
and  the  names  of  Apronal,  Herigebal,  Noesnemordach, 
and  Mardokampad  *  are  to  him  as  familiar  as  those  of 

English  translations  name,  however,  also  Isaac  Vossius(i6i8-i688),  an  able 
Dutch  philologist,  and  a  well-known  French  literary  man,  Urbain  Chevreau 
(1613-1701). 

1  In  1687,  when  this  paragraph  was  first  published,  there  was  no  longer 
an  independent  kingdom  of  Hungary,  for  three  years  before  the  crown 
had  been  declared  hereditary  in  the  House  of  Au-tria,  which  had  ruled 
Bohemia  as  well  since  1525. 

2  These  wars,  interrupted  by  the  peace  of  Nymeguen  (1678),  were  going 
on  whilst  oiir  author  wrote. 

3  Henri  IV.  (1553-1610),  or  Henri  le  Grand,  according  to  La  Bruyfere's 
own  note,  was  not  the  son  of  the  last  of  the  Valois,  Henri  III.  (1551-1589), 
but  after  the  latter's  death  became  heir  to  the  French  throne,  because 
Henry  IV. 's  father,  Antoine  de  Bourbon,  was  descended  from  the  Count  de 
Clermont,  the  fifth  son  of  Louis  IX. 

4  Those  nimes  La  Bruyere  found  in  the  Histoire  dii  Monde  of  Chevrrau 


126  OF   SOCIETY   AND   OF   CONVERSATION. 

Valois  and  Bourbon  are  to  us.  He  has  yet  to  learn 
that  the  Emperor  ^  is  married,  but  he  can  tell  you  that 
Ninus  2  had  two  wives.  He  hears  the  king  enjoys 
perfect  health,  and  this  reminds  him  that  Thetmosis, 
a  king  of  Egypt,  was  a  valetudinarian,  and  that  he 
inherited  this  disposition  from  his  grandfather,  Ali- 
pharmutosis.3  What  does  he  not  know  .-'  What  in  all 
venerable  antiquity  is  hid  from  him  ?  He  will  tell  you 
that  Semiramis,  or,  as  some  call  her,  Serimaris,  spoke 
so  much  like  her  son  Ninyas,  that  their  voices  could 
not  be  distinguished  from  one  another ;  but  he  dare  not 
decide  whether  the  mother  had  a  manly  voice  like  her 
son,  or  the  son  an  effeminate  voice  like  his  mother ;  he 
will  confide  to  you  that  Nimrod  was  left-handed,  and 
Sesostris^  ambidexter;  that  it  is  an  error  to  imagine 
one  of  the  Artaxerxes  was  called  Longimanus  ^  because 
his  arms  reached  down  to  his  knees,  and  not  because 


(see  page  124,  note  5)  ;  and  nearly  all  of  them  are  so  wrongly  spelt  that  it 
is  almost  hopeless  to  discover  whom  they  meant. 

1  In  the  month  of  December  of  the  same  year  this  paragraph  had  been 
published,  Joseph  I.  (1678-1711),  emperor  of  the  Roman?,  was  crowned 
king  of  Hungary,  in  virtue  of  his  hereditary  right.     See  page  215,  note  i. 

2  Ninus  was  the  husband  of  Semiramis,  about  2182  B.C.,  and  founded 
with  her  Nineveh,  of  which  empire  she  became  queen  ;  she  abdicated  after 
a  reign  of  forty-two  years  in  favour  of  her  son  Ninyas.  All  these  persons 
seem,  however,  to  have  been  mythological,  and  to  have  had  no  foundation 
in  history.     The  Semiramis  of  Herodotus  lived  810-781  B.C. 

3  The  passage  in  Josephus  containing  Manethos'  tradition  says,  "  Mes- 
phratuthmosis  drove  the  Hyksos  [or  shepherd  kings]  as  far  as  Avaris  [San  in 
Egypt],  and  shut  them  up  in  it.  His  son  Tuthmosis  obliged  them  to  evacuate 
it."  Tuthmosis  is  really  Aahmes,  the  founder  of  the  iSth  dynasty,  who 
drove  the  shepherd  kings  out  of  Egypt.  Misphratuthmosis,  sometimes 
written  Misphramuthosis,  and  Alisphragmuthosis,  his  relative  or  ancestor, 
is  meant  by  this  name  Alipharmutosis,  but  he  has  not  been  recognised  in 
Eg\ptian  records. 

•*  Sesostris  is  the  Greek  name  of  the  conqueror  Rameses  II.,  the  third 
king  of  the  19th  Egyptian  dynasty. 

*  Artaxerxes  Longimanu?,  king  of  Persia,  succeeded  his  father  Xerxes 
I.,  465  B.C.,  and  died  about  425  b  c. 


OF   SOCIETY   AND    OF   CONVERSATION.  1 27 

one  of  his  hands  was  longer  than  the  other  ;  he  adds 
that  though  some  g^ave  authors  affirm  that  it  was  his 
right  hand,  he  has  good  grounds  to  maintain  it  was  the 
left  hand. 

(75.)  Ascanius  is  a  sculptor,  Hegio  an  iron-founder, 
^schines  a  fuller,  and  Cydias  a  wit,^  for  that  is  his 
trade.  He  has  a  signboard,  a  shop,  work  that  is 
ordered,^  and  journeymen  who  work  under  him  ;  he 
cannot  possibly  let  you  have  those  stanzas  he  has  pro-^ 
mised  you  in  less  than  a  month,  unless  he  breaks  his 
word  with  Dosithea,  who  has  engaged  him  to  write  an 
elegy  ;  he  has  also  an  idyl  on  the  loom  which  is  for 
Grantor,  who  presses  him  for  it,  and  has  promised  him 
a  liberal  reward.  You  can  have  whatever  you  like — 
prose  or  verse,  for  he  is  just  as  good  in  one  as  in  the 
other.  If  you  want  a  letter  of  condolence,  or  one  on 
some  person's  absence,  he  will  write  them  ;  he  has  them 
even  ready  made ;  step  into  his  warehouse,  and  you  may 
pick  and  choose.  Cydias  has  a  friend  who  has  nothing 
else  to  do  but  to  promise  to  certain  people  a  long  time 
beforehand  that  he  will  come  to  them,  and  who,  finally, 
introduces  him  in  some  society  as  a  man  seldom  to 
be  met  with,  and  exquisite  in  conversation.  Then, 
just  as  a  vocalist  sings  or  as  a  lute-player  touches  his 
instrument  in  a  company  where  it  has  been  expected, 
Cydias,  after  having  coughed,  puts  back  his  ruffles, 
extends  his  hand,  opens  his  fingers,  and  very  gravely 


1  Cydias  is  Fontenelle  (see  page  11,  note  i),  who  was  only  thirty-seven 
years  old  when  this  paragraph  was  first  printed  in  the  eighth  edition  of  the 
"  Characters,"  in  1694,  and  who  became  La  Bruyere's  enemy  ever  since. 

2  Fontenelle  had  written  for  his  uncle  Thos.  Corneille  (1625-1709)  certain 
parts  of  two  operas, /"jycA/ (1678)  and  BelUrophon  (1679);  for  Beauval,  in 
prose,  an  eulogy  on  Perrault  (i688),  and  for  a  certain  Mdlle.  Bernard,  part  of 
a  tragedy  ol  Brutus  (1691). 


125  OF   SOCIETY   AND   OF   CONVERSATION. 

utters  his  over-refined  thoughts  and  his  sophisticated 
arguments.  Unlike  those  persons  whose  principles 
agree,  and  who  know  that  reason  and  truth  are  one  and 
the  same  thing,  and  snatch  the  words  out  of  one  an- 
other's mouths  to  acquiesce  in  one  another's  sentiments, 
he  never  opens  his  mouth  but  to  contradict :  "  I  think," 
he  says  graciously,  "  it  is  just  the  opposite  of  what  you 
say  ; "  or,  "  I  am  not  at  all  of  your  opinion,"  or  else, 
"  Formerly  I  was  under  the  same  delusion  as  you  are 
now  ;  but,  ..."  and  then  he  continues,  "  There  are 
three  things  to  be  considered,"  to  which  he  adds  a 
fourth.  He  is  an  insipid  chatterer  ;  no  sooner  has  he 
obtained  a  footing  into  any  society,  than  he  looks  out 
for  some  ladies  whom  he  can  fascinate,  before  whom  he 
can  set  forth  his  wit  or  his  philosophy,  and  produce  his 
rare  conceptions  ;  for,  whether  he  speaks  or  writes,  he 
ought  never  to  be  suspected  of  saying  what  is  true  or 
false,  sensible  or  ridiculous  ;  his  only  care  is  not  to 
express  the  same  sentiments  as  some  one  else,  and  to 
differ  from  everybody.  Therefore,  in  conversation,  he 
often  waits  till  every  one  has  given  his  opinion  on  some 
casual  subject,  or  one  which  not  seldom  he  has  intro- 
duced himself,  in  order  to  utter  dogmatically  things 
which  are  perfectly  new,  but  which  he  thinks  decisive 
and  unanswerable.  "  Lucianus  ^  and  Seneca,"  ^  says 
Cydias,  "  come  pretty  near  me ;  but  as  for  Plato,^ 
Virgil,*  and  Theocritus  ^  they  are  quite  below  me,"  and 

1  Lucianus  of  Samosata,  a  satirist  and  a  rhetorician  (120-200  A.D.) 

2  The  author  adds  "a  philosopher  and  a  tragic  poet."    See  page  124,  note  4. 

3  Plato,  the  well-known  Greek  philosopher  (430-347  B.C.) 

4  Publius  Virgilius  M.iro,  the  Roman  epic  and  bucolic  poet  (70-19  B.c  ) 

*  Theocritus,  a  Greek  bucolic  poet,  who  flourished  about  272  B.C.  Fonte- 
nellehad  wiitten  Dialogues  of  the  dead,  as  Lucianus  had  done  ;  philosophical 
works  and  tragedies  like  Seneca,  philosophical  dialogues  in  Plato's  style,  and 
pastoral  poetry  like  Virgil  and  Theocritus. 


OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  1 29 

his  flatterer  takes  care  to  confirm  him  every  morning  in 
this  opinion.  As  Cydias  has  the  same  taste  and  interest 
as  the  revilers  of  Homer,i  he  quietly  expects  that  man- 
kind will  be  undeceived  and  prefer  modern  poets  to  the 
blind  bard  ;  then  he  will  put  himself  at  the  head  of 
these  poets,  and  reserve  the  second  place  for  a  friend. 2 
He  is,  in  a  word,  a  compound  of  pedantry  and  for- 
mality, to  be  admired  by  cits  and  rustics,  in  whom, 
nevertheless,  there  is  nothing  great  except  the  opinion 
he  has  of  himself. 

(76.)  Profound  ignorance  makes  a  man  dogmatical  ; 
he  who  knows  nothing  thinks  he  can  teach  others  what 
he  just  now  has  learned  himself;  whilst  he  who  knows 
a  great  deal  can  scarcely  imagine  any  one  should  be 
unacquainted  with  what  he  says,  and,  therefore,  speaks  I 
with  more  indifference. 

{77.)  Great  things  only  require  to  be  simply  told,  for 
they  are  spoiled  by  emphasis ;  but  little  things  should 
be  clothed  in  lofty  language,  as  they  are  only  kept  up  by 
expression,  tone  of  voice,  and  style  of  delivery. 

(78.)  I  think  we  generally  say  things  more  delicately 
than  we  write  them. 

(79.)  Hardly  any  other  men  but  born  gentlemen  or 
men  of  culture  are  capable  of  keeping  a  secret. 

(80.)  All  confidence  placed  in  another  is  dangerous 
if  it  is  not  perfect,  for  on  almost  all  occasions  we  ought 
to  tell  everything  or  to  conceal  everything.  We  have 
already  told  too  much  of  our  secret,  if  one  single  cir- 
cumstance is  to  be  kept  back. 

(81.)  Some  men  promise  to  keep  your  secret  and  yet 
reveal  it  without  knowing  they  are  doing  so  ;  they  do 

1  Perrault,  La  Motte  (1672-1731),  De  Vis^  (1640-1710),  and  others. 

2  This  friend  is  supposed  to  have  been  La  Motte. 

I 


130  OF    SOCIETY   AND    OF    CONVERSATION. 

not  wag  their  lips,  and  yet  they  are  understood ;  it  is 
read  on  their  brow  and  in  their  eyes ;  it  is  seen  through 
their  breast ;  they  are  transparent.  Other  men  do  not 
exactly  tell  a  thing  that  has  been  intrusted  to  them,  but 
they  talk  and  act  in  such  a  manner  that  people  discover 
it  for  themselves.  Lastly,  there  are  some  who  despise 
your  secret,  of  whatever  importance  it  may  be  :  "  it  is 
something  mysterious  which  such-a-one  has  imparted 
to  me  and  forbade  me  to  mention  it,"  and  then  out  it 
comes. 

If  a  secret  is  revealed,  the  person  who  has  confided  it 
to  another  is  to  be  blamed. 

(82.)  Nicander  converses  with  Eliza  about  the  gentle 
and  courteous  way  in  which  he  lived  with  his  wife  from 
the  day  of  their  marriage  to  the  hour  of  her  death  ;  he  had 
already  said  how  sorry  he  was  he  had  no  children  by  her, 
and  he  now  repeats  it ;  he  talks  of  the  houses  he  has  in 
town,  and  then  of  an  estate  he  has  in  the  country ;  he 
calculates  what  it  brings  him  in,  draws  a  plan  of  the  build- 
ings, describes  its  situation,  expatiates  on  the  conveniency 
of  the  apartments  as  well  as  on  the  richness  and  elegance 
of  the  furniture  ;  he  assures  her  he  loves  good  cheer  and 
fine  horses  and  carriages,  and  complains  that  his  late  wife 
did  not  care  much  for  play  and  company.  "  You  are  so 
wealthy,"  said  one  of  his  friends  to  him,  "  why  do  you 
not  buy  some  official  post,^  or  why  not  a  certain  piece  of 
ground  which  would  enlarge  your  estate?"  "People 
think  I  am  richer  than  I  really  am,"  replies  Nicander. 
He  neither  forgets  his  birth  nor  his  relatives,  and  speaks 
of  his  cousin,  the  superintendent  of  finances,  or  of  his 
kinswoman,   the  Lord   Chancellor's  wife.      He  informs 

J  The  right  of  presentation  to  nearly  all  offices  at  court,  or  official  posi- 
tions, was  publicly  bought  and  sold  in  Louis  XIV. 's  time. 


OF   SOCIETY    AND    OF    CONVERSATION.  I31 

Eliza  how  discontented  he  has  become  with  his  nearest 
relatives,  and  even  with  his  heirs.  "  Am  I  wrong,  and 
have  I  any  cause  for  doing  them  good  ?  "  he  asks  her, 
and  desires  her  to  give  her  opinion.  He  then  intimates 
that  he  is  in  a  weak  and  wretched  state  of  health,  and 
speaks  of  the  vault  where  he  wishes  to  be  interred.  He 
insinuates  himself,  and  fawns  on  all  those  who  visit  the 
lady  he  courts.  But  Eliza  has  not  courage  enough  to 
grow  rich  at  the  cost  of  being  his  wife.  Whilst  he  is 
thus  conversing  with  her  a  military  man  is  introduced, 
and  by  his  mere  presence  defeats  all  the  plans  of  the 
worthy  citizen,  who  gets  up  disappointed  and  vexed,  and 
goes  somewhere  else  to  say  that  he  wishes  to  marry  for 
the  second  time. 

(83.)  Wise  men  sometimes  avoid  the  world,  that  they 
may  not  be  surfeited  with  it. 


VII. 


OF  THE  GIFTS  OF  FORTUNE. 

(^•)  A  VERY  rich  man  may  eat  of  his  side-dishes, 
have  his  walls  and  recesses  painted,  enjoy  a 
palatial  residence  in  the  country  and  another  in  town, 
have  a  large  retinue,  even  become  connected  with  a 
duke  through  marriage,  ^  and  make  of  his  son  a  great 


1  Commentators,  who  see  allusions  everywhere,  suppose  the  "very  rich 
man  "  was  Louvois,  whose  sons-in-law  were  the  Dukes  de  la  Rocheguyon 
and  de  Villeneuve ;  or  Colbert,  who  became  the  father-in-law  of  the  Dukes  de 
Chevreuse,  de  Beauvilliers,  and  de  Mortemart ;  or,  finally,  Fremont,  keeper 
of  the  royal  treasury,  who  married  his  daughter  to  the  Duke  de  Lorges. 


OF   THE   GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE.  133 

nobleman,  and  all  this  will  be  considered  quite  right  and 
proper;  but  to  live  happy  is  perhaps  the  privilege  of 
other  men. 

(2.)  A  lofty  birth  or  a  large  fortune  portend  merit,  and 
cause  it  to  be  the  sooner  noticed. 

(3.)  The  ambition  of  a  coxcomb  is  excusable,  because, 
after  he  has  made  a  large  fortune,  people  will  be  care- 
ful to  discover  in  him  some  merit  which  he  never  had 
before,  and  as  great  as  it  is  in  his  own  opinion. 

(4.)  As  favour  and  riches  forsake  a  man,  we  discover  ^ 
in  him  the  foolishness  they  concealed,  and  which  no  one     ^ 
perceived  before. 

(5.)  We  could  never  imagine  what  a  strange  dispro- 
portion a  few  or  a  great  many  pieces  of  money  make   \ 
between   men,  if  we  did  not  see  it  every  day  with  our 
own  eyes. 

Those  few  or  many  pieces  of  money  are  what  deter- 
mine men  to  adopt  the  profession  of  arms,  of  the  law, 
or  of  the  church,  for  they  have  hardly  any  other  voca- 
tion. 

(6.)  Two  merchants  were  neighbours  and  in  the  same 
line  of  business,  but  their  success  in  life  was  quite  dif- 
ferent. They  each  had  a  daughter  ;  and  these,  brought 
up  together,  had  been  as  intimate  as  girls  of  the  same 
age  and  the  same  condition  in  life  could  have  been  ; 
later,  one  of  them,  driven  by  want  and  misery,  endea- 
voured to  get  a  place,  and  entered  the  service  of  a  great 
lady,  one  of  the  highest  rank  at  court ;  ^  and  this  same 
lady  had  formerly  been  her  bosom  friend. 

(7.)  If  a  financier  fails  in  making  a  lucky  stroke,  the 

1  This  lady  is  said  to  have  been  Madame  Fleurion  d'Armenonville, 
daughter  of  a  clothier,  whose  husband  was  keeper  of  the  seals  and  directeur 
des  finances. 


134  OF   THE    GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

courtiers  say  of  him,  '*  He  is  a  mere  citizen,  a  man 
sprung  from  nothing,  a  boor  ; "  but  if  he  succeeds,  they 
become  suitors  for  his  daughter's  hand. 

(8.)  Some  men  in  their  youth  serve  an  apprenticeship 
to  a  certain  trade,  to  follow  a  very  different  one  the 
rest  of  their  lives.^ 

(9,)  A  man  is  very  plain-looking,  dwarfish  in  size, 
and  wanting  in  intelligence  ;  ^  but  some  one  whispers  to 
me  that  he  has  an  annual  income  of  fifty  thousand  livres. 
That  concerns  him  alone,  and  I  shall  never  be  the  better 
or  the  worse  for  it ;  but  people  might  well  consider  me 
mad  if  I  were  to  look  on  such  a  man  in  a  different 
light  because  he  is  wealthy,  and  were  to  do  so  involun- 
tarily. 

(10.)  It  is  in  vain  to  attempt  to  turn  a  very  rich 
blockhead  into  ridicule,  for  the  laughers  will  be  on  his 
side. 

(11.)  N  .  .  ,3  has  a  clownish,  rude  doorkeeper,  who 
looks  somewhat  like  a  Swiss,*  a  big  hall  and  an  ante- 
room, where  people  are  obliged  to  tire  themselves  out 
by  dancing  attendance ;  at  last  he  makes  his  appearance 
with  a  serious  mien  and  a  solemn  gait,  hears  only  a  few 
words  of  what  is  said,  and  sends  people  away  without 
seeing  them  to  the  door.     However  inferior  he  may  seem 


1  Those  men  were  the  so-called  "farmers  of  the  revenue,"  nearly  all  of 
low  birth,  and  who  formerly  had  been  in  some  trade  or  business.  Seepage 
136,  note  2,  and  page  137,  §  15. 

'^  Little,  silly,  ugly  rich  men  were  not  more  rare  in  our  author's  time  than 
they  are  at  present ;  but  the  commentators  will  have  it  that  the  Marquis  de 
Gouverney  and  the  Duke  de  Ventadour  were  meant. 

3  M.  de  Saint-Pouange,  a  relative  of  the  ministers  Colbert,  Le  Tellier, 
and  Louvois,  and  the  latter's  principal  secretary,  is  meant. 

*  Nearly  all  the  great  lords  had  Swiss  doorkeepers.  Petit-Jean,  in  Racine's 
comedy  Les  Plaideurs,  says  also :  "  II  m'avait  fait  venir  d' Amiens  pour  etre 
Suisse." 


OF   THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE.  1 35 

elsewhere,  in  his  own  house  he  will  attract   something 
very  akin  to  respect. 

(12.)  I  want  you,  Clitiphon,^  and  this  has  driven  me 
early  from  my  bed  and  room,  and  brought  me  to  your 
door.  Would  to  Heaven  I  had  no  occasion  to  ask  you 
a  favour  or  be  troublesome  to  you  !  Your  servants  tell 
me  your  are  in  your  own  room,  and  that  it  will  be  at 
least  an  hour  before  you  can  see  me  ;  I  return  before 
that  time,  and  they  inform  me  you  are  gone  out. 
What  keeps  you  so  deeply  engaged,  Clitiphon,  in  the 
innermost  corner  of  your  residence,  that  prevents  you 
from  seeing  me  ?  You  file  some  papers,  you  collate 
some  register,  you  sign  your  name  or  your  initials  to 
some  documents.  I  had  but  one  thing  to  ask  you,  and  you 
had  only  to  say  "  Yes  "  or  "  No."  If  you  wish  to  become 
a  curiosity,  be  of  use  to  those  who  depend  on  you,  and 
you  will  be  a  greater  curiosity  by  such  conduct  than  by 
remaining  invisible.-  You  are  a  man  of  importance  and 
overwhelmed  with  business,  but  if  you  in  your  turn  have 
need  of  my  services,  come  to  the  solitude  of  my  study, 
where  the  philosopher  is  always  to  be  found,  and  where 
you  will  not  be  put  off  till  another  day.  You  will  find 
me  turning  over  Plato's  writings  "  On  the  spirituality 
of  the  soul  and  its  difference  with  the  body,"  ^  or,  pen 
in  hand,  calculating  the  distance  between  Saturn  and 
Jupiter ;  ^  admiring  the  works  of  the  Creator  and  endea- 

1  The  "Keys"  mention  several  people  for  Clitiphon,  such  as  M.  le 
Camus,  lieutenant-civil,  or  his  brother  the  cardinal,  or  another  brother  who 
was  maitre  des  requStes. 

2  In  the  original  there  is  a  play  on  the  word  rare  which  cannot  be  rendered 
in  English. 

3  This  seems  to  refer  to  Plato's  "  Timaeus  "  and  his  "  Phasdo." 

^  Jupiter  is  the  largest  and  Saturn  the  second  largest  planet  of  our  solar 
system.  The  celebrated  Dutch  natural  philosopher  Huyghens  van  Zuy- 
lichem  (1629-1695),  who  discovered  the  fourth  satellite  of  Saturn  and  proved 


136  OF  THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE. 

vouring,  by  acquiring  a  knowledge  of  truth,  to  rectify 
my  opinions  and  to  improve  my  morals.  You  can  enter ; 
all  my  doors  are  open  ;  you  will  not  get  tired  in  my 
anteroom  with  waiting  for  me  ;  you  have  no  need  to 
let  me  know  beforehand  when  you  are  coming ;  you 
bring  me  something  more  precious  than  silver  or  gold, 
if  it  is  an  opportunity  of  being  of  service  to  you.  Only 
tell  me  what  you  wish  me  to  do  for  you  ?  Do  you  want 
me  to  leave  my  books,  my  studies,  my  writings,  and  the 
line  I  have  just  begun  ?  I  am  glad  to  be  interrupted 
when  I  can  be  of  service  to  you.  A  moneyed  man,  a 
man  of  business,  is  like  a  bear  not  yet  tamed  ;  there  is  no 
seeing  him  in  his  den  but  with  the  utmost  difficulty;  or, 
rather,  he  is  not  to  be  seen  at  all,  for  in  the  beginning 
he  is  but  dimly  visible,  and  afterwards  you  see  no  more 
of  him.  A  man  of  letters,  on  the  contrary,  is  as  per- 
ceptible ^  as  a  pillar  in  a  cross-road  ;  he  is  to  be  seen 
by  everybody,  at  all  times  and  in  all  conditions,  at 
table,  in  bed,  without  clothes,  dressed,  in  sickness  or  in 
health  ;  he  is  not  a  man  of  importance,  and  does  not 
wish  to  be  one. 

(13.)  Let  us  not  envy  a  certain  class  of  men  for  their 
enormous  riches  ;  they  have  paid  such  an  equivalent  for 
them  that  it  would  not  suit  us  ;  they  have  given  for  them 
their  peace  of  mind,  their  health,  their  honour,  and  their 
conscience ;  this  is  rather  too  dear,  and  there  is  nothing 
to  be  made  out  of  such  a  bargain. 

(14.)  The  P.T.S.^  give  us  all  possible  sensations  one 

the  existence  of  its  ring,  lived  in  Paris  from  1666  till  1681,  and  may  have 
met  La  Bruyere. 

1  The  original  has  trivial,  from  the  Latin  trivialis  and  trivium,  hence 
the  meaning  of  exposed  to  the  public  gaze,  "  perceptible." 

^  By  these  initials  are  meant  partisans,  a  name  given  to  the  farmers- 
general  of  the  revenue.      Until  1726,  these  persons  obtained  in  France, 


OF    THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE.  1 37 

after  another ;  we  first  despise  them  for  their  low  origin, 
then  we  envy  them,  afterwards  fear,  hate,  and  sometimes 
esteem  and  respect  them  ;  we  often  live  long  enough  to 
finish  by  pitying  them. 

(15.)  Sosia  1  was  first  a  footman,  then  an  under-farmer 
of  the  revenue,  and  by  extortion,  violence,  and  malver- 
sation has  now  raised  himself  to  a  high  post  on  the  ruins 
of  several  families.  He  was  ennobled  by  virtue  of  his 
office,  and  the  only  thing  he  wanted  was  to  be  an  honest 
man  ;  ^  this  marvel  has  been  effected  by  his  becoming  \^ 
churchwarden. 

(16.)  Arfuria^  used  formerly  to  walk  by  herself,  and 
go  on  foot  towards  the  main  entrance  of  a  certain  church, 
in  which  she  heard  from  a  distance  the  sermon  of  a  Car- 
melite friar  or  of  a  doctor  of  divinity,  of  whom  she  saw 
but  the  side  face,  and  could  not  hear  many  words  he  said. 

for  a  fixed  money  payment,  the  right  of  collecting  one  or  more  of  the 
public  taxes.  This  system  was  first  inaugurated  by  Sully  (1560-1641), 
the  able  finance-minister  of  Henri  IV.,  out  of  necessity,  in  order  to  raise 
money ;  and  was  continued  for  more  than  two  hundred  years,  and  the 
cause  of  many  arbitrary  measures  and  great  oppression.  The  number  of 
these  fertniers-generaux  was  first  forty  and  afterwards  sixty,  but  there  were 
a  goodly  number  of  sous-fermiers  and  many  other  agents,  who  were  all 
practically  irresponsible.  In  1726,  a  company  of  capitalists  undertook 
the  collection  of  the  greater  part  of  the  king's  taxes,  which  was  called 
the  fermes-generales  or  unies,  and  lasted  till  the  first  French  Revolution. 
The  ministre  des finances,  a  name  only  first  given  in  1795,  was,  in  the  six- 
teenth and  part  of  the  seventeentli  century,  called  surintendant  desfinattces, 
and  from  1661  till  1791  contrdleur-gen^ral  des  finances. 

1  Sosia  in  Greek  is  generally  used  as  the  name  of  a  servant  or  a  slave,  and 
M/)liere  gives  that  name  to  a  servant  in  his  Amphitryon;  in  Latin  a  farmer 
of  the  public  revenue  was  called  socius,  because  he  was  the  associate  of 
other  similar  farmers.  It  was  not  at  all  uncommon  in  Louis  XIV. 's  time  for 
footmen  to  rise  to  the  rank  of  financiers,  and  La  Baziniere,  de  Gourville, 
and  de  Bourvalais,  who  were  all  three  very  rich,  as  well  as  many  others, 
might  be  quoted  as  examples  of  this.  "Y^io  fermiers-giniraux,  Revol  and 
d'Apougny,  became  churchwardens. 

2  See  page  43,  note  2. 

3  The  wives  of  a  good  many  farmers  of  the  revenue  have  been  named  by 
various  commentators  and  "  Keys." 


138  OF   THE    GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE. 

Her  virtue  was  not  apparent  and  her  piety  as  well  known 
as  she  herself  was.  Her  husband  has  become  a  farmer 
of  the  huitihne  denier^  and  made  a  prodigious  for- 
tune in  less  than  six  years.  Now  she  never  comes  to 
church  but  in  a  carriage,  wearing  a  heavy  train,  which  is 
borne  up  :  the  preacher  stops  while  she  seats  herself 
opposite  to  him,  so  that  not  a  single  word  nor  the  smallest 
gesture  can  escape  her.  The  priests  intrigue  among 
themselves  as  to  who  shall  be  her  father-confessor,  for 
all  wish  to  give  her  absolution,  but  the  victory  remains 
with  the  vicar  of  the  parish. 

(17.)  Croesus '^  is  carried  to  the  churchyard;  and  of 
all  the  immense  wealth  which  he  acquired  by  rapine  and 
extortion,  and  which  he  has  lavished  in  luxury  and  riot- 
ous living,  there  is  not  enough  left  for  a  decent  burial ; 
he  died  insolvent,  without  any  property,  and  consequently 
without  any  attendance  ;  neither  medicines,  nor  cordials, 
nor  physicians  were  seen  about  him,  nor  the  most  infe- 
rior priest  to  shrive  him. 

(18.)  Champagne,^  rising  from  a  prolonged  dinner, 
quite  gorged,  and  his  head  full  of  the  agreeable  fumes  of 
Avenay  or  Sillery,^  signs  an  order  for  a  tax  to  be  levied 
which  would  have  produced  a  famine  in  a  whole  province, 


1  X^shuitieme  denier  via.^  a  tax  imposed  in  1672  during  the  war  with 
Holland  on  all  purchasers  of  estates  from  the  clergy. 

-  The  "  Keys"  give  several  names  of  financiers,  such  as  Aubert,  who  at 
one  time  was  worth  more  than  three  millions  of  francs,  and  who  died  in  a 
garret,  Guenegaud,  and  Remond.  The  Chambre  de  Justice,  a  name  given  to 
certain  committees  which  were  appointed  from  time  to  time  to  inquire  into 
financial  malversations  and  abuse-,  condemned  in  i66i  the  above-named 
three  gentlemen  to  pay  very  heavy  fines ;  hence  their  comparative  poverty. 

3  "  Champagne  "  stands  for  Monnerot.  (See  page  no,  note  2.)  It  was  not 
uncommon  to  give  such.names  a.iPoiievin„  Lorrain,  Basque,  Provencal,  etc., 
to  footmen,  after  their  supposed  native  provinces. 

4  Two  still  Champagne  wines.  Sparkling  Champagne  was  not  drunk  till 
the  eighteenth  century. 


OF   THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE.  1 39 

if  Other  means  had  not  been  taken.  He  is  excusable  ;  for 
how  can  a  man  whose  digestion  is  just  beginning  under- 
stand that  people  could  anywhere  die  of  starvation. 

(19.)  Sylvanus  ^  has  with  his  money  bought  rank  and 
another  name  ;  he  is  lord  of  the  same  manor  where  his 
forefathers  had  been  paying  the  faille ;  2  formerly  he  was 
not  good  enough  to  be  Cleobulus'  page,  but  now  he  is 
his  son-in-law  ? 

(20.)  Dorus  3  is  carried  in  a  litter  along  the  Appian 
Way ;  *  his  freedmen  and  slaves  run  before  him  to  clear 
the  way  and  to  turn  aside  the  people ;  he  wants  nothing 
but  Lictors ;  ^  he  enters  Rome  with  quite  a  retinue, 
a  triumphant  foil  to  the  meanness  and  poverty  of  his 
father  Sanga. 

(21.)  No  one  makes  a  better  use  of  his  fortune  than 
Periander ;  ^  it  gives  him  a  certain  rank,  influence,  and 
authority  ;  people  no  longer  ask  him  to  be  their  friend, 
but  they  implore  his  protection.  In  the  beginning  he 
spoke  of  himself  as  "  such  a  man  as  I  am,"  but  soon  he 
says  "  a  man  of  my  rank ; "  for  he  pretends  to  be  one  of 
these  men,  and  there  are  none  who  borrow  money  of  him, 
or  eat  his  dinners,  which  are  exquisite,  who  dare  dispute 

1  All  commentators  agree  that  here  the  farmer-general  George  is  meant, 
who  bought  the  Marquisate  d'Entragues  and  married  a  daughter  of  the  Mar- 
quis de  Valen^ay. 

2  The  taille  was  a  king's  tax  levied  every  year  only  on  the  people  and  the 
commoners. 

3  Who  Dorus  is  has  not  been  found  out. 

4  The  Appian  Way,  the  oldest  and  best  of  all  the  Roman  roads,  leads 
from  the  Porta  Cappena  at  Rome  to  Capua. 

*  The  Lictors  at  Rome,  with  \.hc/ascts,  always  walked  before  the  Consul 
or  the  Dictator. 

6  Some  think  that  here  a  certain  M.  de  Langlee,  tnarichal des  camps  et 
armies  du  rot,  was  me^nt.  Others  think  it  was  an  uncle  of  the  minister 
Colbert,  a  M.  Pussort,  one  of  the  king's  counsel  of  state  ;  but  the  first  was 
unmarried  and  had  a  very  wealthy  father,  and  the  second,  who  was  also 
unmarried,  and  a  miser  to  boot,  owed  his  influence -wholly  to  his  position. 


I40  OF   THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

it  His  residence  is  splendid  ;  the  outside  is  Doric,  and 
there  is  no  gate  but  a  portico.  Is  it  a  private  house 
or  a  temple  ?  People  are  at  a  loss  to  know  which.  He 
is  lord  paramount  of  the  entire  precincts  ;  every  one 
envies  him,  and  would  rejoice  at  his  downfall ;  his  wife's 
pearl  necklace  has  made  all  the  ladies  of  the  neigh- 
bourhood her  enemies.  Everything  in  him  is  of  a  piece, 
and  nothing  yet  belies  that  grandeur  he  has  acquired, 
for  which  he  has  paid  and  does  not  owe  anything.  But 
why  did  his  old  and  feeble  father  not  die  twenty  years  ago 
before  Periander's  name  was  ever  mentioned .''  How  can 
any  man  ever  endure  those  odious  invitations  to  a  funeral  ^ 
which  always  reveal  the  real  origin  of  the  deceased,  and 
often  put  the  widows  or  the  heirs  to  the  blush .-'  How 
shall  he  hide  them  from  the  eyes  of  the  envious,  malicious, 
keen-sighted  town,  and  offend  a  thousand  people  who 
will  insist  on  taking  their  due  places  at  all  funerals  ? 
Besides,  what  would  you  have  him  do  ?  Shall  he  style 
his  father  Noble  homme  and  perhaps  Honorable  homme, 
whilst  he  himself  is  dubbed  Messire  ?  2 

(22.)  How  many  men  are  like  trees,  already  strong 
and  full  grown,  which  are  transplanted  into  some  gar- 
dens, to  the  astonishment  of  those  people  who  behold 
them  in  these  fine  spots,  where  they  never  saw  them 
grow,  and  who  neither  know  their  beginning  nor  their 
progress  ! 

(23.)  If  some  dead  were  to  rise  again  and  saw  who 
bore  their  illustrious  names,  and  that  their  ancient  lands, 
their  castles,  and  their  venerable  seats  were  owned  by 

1  The  original  has  pancartes,  which  our  author  in  a  note  states  were 
billets  denterrement. 

2  Noble  homme  was  a  title  which  citizens  of  importance  took  in  all  legal 
contracts,  whilst  men  of  less  influence,  tradesmen  and  artisans,  were  styled 
Honorable  homme,  and  Messire  was  only  reserved  for  persons  of  rank. 


OF   THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE.  14I 

the  very  men  whose  fathers  had  perhaps  been  their 
tenants,  what  would  they  think  of  our  age  ? 

(24.)  Nothing  makes  us  better  understand  what 
trifling  things  Providence  thinks  He  bestows  on  men  in 
granting  them  wealth,  money,  dignities,  and  other  ad- 
vantages, than  the  manner  in  which  they  are  distributed 
and  the  kind  of  men  who  have  the  largest  share. 

(25.)  If  you  were  to  enter  a  kitchen,  where  all  that 
art  and  method  can  do  is  employed  to  gratify  your 
palate,  and  make  you  eat  more  than  you  want  ;  if  you 
see  how  the  viands  are  prepared  which  will  be  served  up 
at  the  feast ;  if  you  observe  how  they  are  manipulated, 
and  the  various  modifications  they  undergo  before  they 
become  first-rate  dishes,  and  are  brought  to  that  neatness 
and  elegance  which  charm  your  eyes,  puzzle  your  choice, 
and  make  you  decide  to  taste  them  all ;  and  then  saw 
the  ingredients  of  this  feast  anywhere  else  than  on  a 
well-spread  table,  how  offended  and  disgusted  you  would 
be!  If  you  were  to  go  behind  the  scenes,  and  count 
the  weights,  the  wheels,  the  ropes  in  "  flights "  and  in 
the  machinery  ;  if  you  were  to  consider  how  many  men 
are  employed  in  executing  these  movements,  and  how 
they  ply  their  arms  and  strain  their  nerves,  you  would 
ask  if  these  are  the  prime  motors  and  mainsprings  of  so 
handsome  and  natural  a  spectacle,  which  seems  so  full  of 
life  and  so  intuitive,  and  you  would  be  greatly  astonished 
at  such  efforts  and  such  energy.  In  like  manner  in- 
quire not  too  narrowly  into  the  origin  of  the  fortune  of 
any  farmer  of  the  revenue.  • 

(26.)  This  youthji  so  ruddy,  so  florid,  and  so  redolent 

1  This  youth  was  M.  le  Tellier,  who  became  Archbishop  of  Rheims  in  1671, 
when  he  was  only  twenty-nine  years  old,  but  who  already,  before  that  time, 
received  the  revenues  of  six  abbeys.     (See  also  page  47,  note  2.) 


142  OF   THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE. 

of  health,  is  lord  of  an  abbey  and  of  ten  other  benefices  ; 
they  bring  him  in  altogether  one  hundred  and  twenty 
thousand  ^  livres  a  year,  which  are  paid  him  in  golden 
coin,2  Elsewhere  there  are  a  hundred  and  twenty  in- 
digent families  who  have  no  fire  to  warm  themselves 
during  winter,  no  clothes  to  cover  themselves,  and  who 
are  often  wanting  bread ;  they  are  in  a  wretched  and 
piteous  state  of  poverty.  What  an  inequality  ?  And 
does  this  not  clearly  prove  that  there  must  be  a  future 
state  ? 

(27.)  Chrysippus,3  an  upstart,  and  the  first  nobleman 
of  his  lineage,  thirty  years  ago  limited  his  aims  to  two 
thousand  livres  a  year  ;  this  was  the  height  of  his  desires 
and  the  summit  of  his  ambition ;  at  least  he  said  so,  as 
many  still  remember.  Some  time  after,  I  do  not  know 
by  what  means,  he  was  able  to  give  to  one  of  his 
daughters  as  her  dowry  as  much  money  as  he  thought 
formerly  an  ample  competency  for  his  whole  lifetime. 
A  like  sum  is  put  away  for  each  of  his  other  children, 
and  he  has  a  good  many  of  them ;  and  this  is  only  an 
advance  of  their  share  in  his  estate,  for  a  good  deal  of 
wealth  may  be  expected  at  his  death.  He  is  still  alive, 
and  though  advanced  in  years,  employs  the  few  days 
which  still  remain  to  him  in  labouring  to  become  richer. 

(28.)  Let  Ergastus  alone,  and  he  will  demand  a  duty 


1  Formerly  six  vingts,  hundred  and  twenty — thus  in  the  original — was  as 
commonly  used  as  quatre-vingt . 

2  The  first  two  editions  contained  a  note  of  La  Bruyere,  to  say  that  by 
tnedailles  (for  he  meant  louis^cfor.  This  he  thought  no  longer  necessary  in 
the  other  editions;  he  only  wanted  to  draw  attention  to  the  fact  that  the 
"  youth  "  received  his  clerical  dues  in  golden  co  n,  and  not  by  a  cheque  on 
%o\xie  fermier-giniral,  who  would  have  taken  a  discount  for  cash  payment. 

3  This  paragraph  seems  to  be  a  hit  at  the/ermier-g^/i^rai  ha.\\geois,  whose 
daughter  married  the  Marshal  de  Tourville,  and  whose  son  was  married  to 

a  niece  of  de  Pontchartrain,  the  contrdleur-geiieral  of  the  finances. 


OF   THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE.  1 43 

from  all  who  drink  some  water  from  the  river  or  who 
walk  on  terra  Jirma ;  he  knows  how  to  convert  reeds, 
rushes,  and  nettles  into  gold  ;  ^  he  listens  to  all  projects, 
and  proposes  everything  he  hears.  The  prince  gives 
nothing  to  any  one  but  at  Ergastus'  expense,  and  bestows 
no  favours  but  what  are  his  due,  for  his  desire  to  have 
and  to  possess  is  never  appeased.  He  would  even 
deal  in  arts  and  sciences,  and  farm  out  harmony  ;  were 
his  advice  to  be  taken,  the  people,  for  the  pleasure  of 
seeing  him  wealthy,  and  with  a  pack  of  hounds  and  a 
stable,  would  forget  the  music  of  Orpheus  and  be  satisfied 
with  his. 

(29.)  Have  no  dealings  with  Crito,^  who  only  looks 
after  his  own  advantages  ;  the  snare  is  always  ready 
spread  for  those  who  wish  to  acquire  his  office,  his  estate, 
or  anything  he  possesses,  for  his  conditions  will  be 
exorbitant.  There  is  no  consideration  or  arrangement 
to  be  expected  from  one  so  wrapt  up  in  his  own  interest 
and  so  inimical  to  yours  ;  he  will  always  take  a  man  in 
if  he  can. 

(30.)  Brontin,^  according  to  common  report,  retires 
from  the  busy  world,  and  during  a  whole  week  sees  none 
but  priests  ;  they  enjoy  their  meditations,  and  he  enjoys 
his. 

(31.)  The  people  very  often  have  the  pleasure  of 
seeing  a  tragedy  acted,  and  of  beholding  expire  on  the 

1  Although  this  remark  seems  to  refer  to  the  Baron  de  Beauvais,  capitaine 
des  chaises,  to  whom  the  king  had  given  the  right  of  selling  the  briars  and 
brambles  ^jrowing  on  the  road  to  Versailles,  the  portrait  of  Ergastus  alludes 
to  t  ose  men  who  were  lor  ever  advising  to  tax  articles  not  already  imposed, 
and  by  whom  France  became  finally  ruined. 

2  Berner,  one  of  the  secretaries  of  Colbert,  is  said  to  have  been  the  original 
of  C'  ito. 

3  This  is  generally  believed  to  re'er  to  de  Pontchartrain,  mentioned 
before,  who,  for  some  time,  was  very  pious. 


144  OF   THE    GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

world's  Stage  the  most  hateful  personages,  who  did  as 
much  harm  as  they  could  whenever  they  appeared,  and 
whom  they  heartily  detested. 

(32.)  If  we  divide  the  lives  of  the  P.T.S.^  into  two 
parts,  the  first,  brisk  and  active,  is  wholly  occupied  in 
trying  to  oppress  the  people,  and  the  second,  bordering 
on  death,  is  spent  in  betraying  and  ruining  one  another. 

(33.)  The  man  ^  who  made  your  fortune  and  that  of 
several  others  was  unable  to  keep  his  own,  or  secure  a 
maintenance  for  his  wife  and  children  after  his  death  ; 
they  live  in  obscurity  and  in  wretchedness.  You  are 
informed  of  their  miserable  condition,  but  you  do  not 
think  of  alleviating  it  ;  indeed  you  cannot  do  so,  for 
you  give  a  good  many  dinners,  you  build  a  good  deal  ; 
but  out  of  gratitude  you  have  kept  the  portrait  of  your 
benefactor,  which,  it  is  true,  has  been  removed  from 
your  own  private  room  to  the  anteroom.  You  have 
at  least  shown  him  some  respect,  for  it  might  have 
gone  to  the  lumber-room. 

(34.)  There  exists  a  stubbornness  of  temper,  and 
another  of  rank  and  condition,  which  both  harden  our 
hearts  against  the  misfortunes  of  others,  and,  I  should 
even  say,  prevent  us  from  pitying  the  evils  which  befall 
our  own  family.  A  true  financier  grieves  neither  for  the 
loss  of  friends,  wife,  nor  children. 

(35.)  "  Away,  fly  ;  you  are  not  far  enough."  "  Here," 
say  you,  "  I  am  under  another  tropic."  "  Pass  under  the 
pole  and  into  another  hemisphere  ;  ascend  to  the  stars, 


1  See  page  136,  note  2. 

2  The  old  English  translations  of  the  "Characters"  say  this  is  an  allusion 
to  M.  Fouquet  (1615-1680),  surintendant  des  finances,  who,  kept  in  prison 
by  Louis  XIV.  for  more  than  twenty  years,  had  a  great  many  friends  and 
partisans  when  in  prosperity,  but  they  nearly  all  turned  against  him  in  his 
adversity. 


OF   THE    GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE.  1 45 

if  possible."  "I  am  there."  "Very  well;  then  you 
are  pretty  safe."  I  look  down  and  discover  on  this  earth 
a  rapacious,  insatiable,  and  inexorable  man,  who,  in  spite 
of  everything  he  meets  on  his  way  or  may  encounter, 
and  at  whatever  cost  to  others,  will  provide  for  himself, 
enlarge  his  fortune,  and  wallow  in  wealth. 

(36.)  To  make  one's  fortune  is  so  fine  a  phrase,  and 
of  such  charming  import,  that  it  is  universally  used  ;  it 
is  to  be  met  with  in  all  languages,  is  pleasing  to  strangers 
and  to  barbarians,  is  to  be  found  at  court  and  in  the 
city,  has  made  its  way  into  cloisters  and  scaled  the  walls 
of  convents  for  both  sexes  ;  there  is  no  place  so  sacred 
where  it  has  not  penetrated,  no  desert  or  solitude  where 
it  is  unknown.! 

(37.)  A  man  who  knows  how  to  make  good  bargains 
or  finds  his  money  increase  in  his  coffers,  thinks  pre- 
sently that  he  has  a  good  deal  of  brains  and  is  almost 
fit  to  be  a  statesman. 

(38.)  A  man  must  have  a  certain  sort  of  intelligence 
to  make  a  fortune,  and  above  all  a  large  fortune ;  but  it 
is  neither  a  good  nor  a  fine,  a  grand  nor  a  sublime,  a  strong 
nor  a  delicate  intellect.  I  am  at  a  loss  to  tell  exactly  what 
it  is,  and  shall  be  glad  if  some  one  will  let  me  know. 

Custom  or  experience  are  of  more  avail  in  making 
our  fortune  than  intelligence  ;  we  think  of  it  too  late, 

1  The  desire  to  make  one's  fortune  was  so  great,  that  at  that  time,  even 
at  court,  it  was  customary  to  take  money  from  forgers  and  scoundrels  ; 
thus  the  Count  de  Grammont  drew  about  fifty  thousand  livres  from  a 
peculator,  and  the  wife  of  the  son  of  the  king  of  France  received  as  a 
present  from  Louis  XIV.  the  estate  of  a  prisoner  who  had  committed  suicide 
in  tlie  Bastile,  which  was  thought  to  be  worth  a  great  deal  of  money.  A 
similar  custom  existed  also  at  the  courts  of  Charles  II.  and  James  II. ;  and 
William  Penn  was  even  accused  of  having  become  an  agent  for  the  maids- 
of-honour  of  the  court,  and  of  obtaining  pardons  for  a  pecuniary  considera- 
tion, but  it  is  now  generally  admitted  it  was  another  Penn  who  acted 
thus. 

K 


X46  OF  THE   GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE. 

and  when  at  last  we  have  made  up  our  mind  to  make 
it,  we  begin  by  committing  some  errors  which  we  have 
not  always  the  time  to  repair ;  and  this,  perhaps,  is  the 
reason  why  fortunes  are  far  from  common. 

A  man  of  small  intellect  wishes  to  get  on  in  Hfe  ;  he 
neglects  everything,  but  from  morning  till  evening  he 
only  thinks  of  one  thing,  and  dreams  of  it  at  night, 
namely,  to  get  on  in  the  world.  He  begins  early  and 
from  his  very  youth  the  chase  after  wealth  ;  if  a  barrier 
in  front  of  him  stops  the  way,  he  naturally  hesitates,  and 
goes  to  the  right  or  left,  according  as  he  sees  an  open- 
ing or  thinks  it  most  convenient ;  and  if  fresh  obstacles 
arise,  he  returns  to  the  path  he  just  left,  and  deter- 
mines, according  to  the  nature  of  the  difficulties,  some- 
times to  overcome  them,  sometimes  to  avoid  them,  or 
to  take  other  measures  as  his  own  interest,  custom,  and 
opportunity  may  direct  him.  Does  any  traveller  need 
such  a  good  head  and  such  great  talents  to  set  out  at 
first  on  a  main  road,  and  if  that  be  crowded  or  imprac- 
ticable, to  cross  the  fields,  jump  over  hedges  and  ditches, 
come  back  into  the  former  road,  and  follow  it  until  his 
journey's  end  ?  Does  he  require  so  much  intelligence 
to  attain  the  goal  ?  Is  it,  then,  so  wonderful  for  a  fool 
ever  to  become  rich  or  of  repute  ? 

There  are  some  stupid,  and  I  may  even  say  weak- 
minded  men,  who  occupy  handsome  posts,  and  who  die 
rich  without  any  one  ever  supposing  that  they  contributed 
to  it  in  any  way  whatever  by  the  smallest  industry  or  their 
own  labour.  Somebody  directed  them  to  the  fountain- 
head,  or,  perhaps,  chance  alone  has  led  them  to  it ;  then 
they  have  been  asked  if  they  should  like  to  have  some 
water,  and  if  so,  to  draw  it ;  and  they  have  drawn  it.^ 

1  The  "  Keys"  think   that  either  Nicholas  d'Orville,  the  confidant  of 


OF   THE   GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE.  147 

(39.)  When  we  are  young  we  are  often  poor ;  either 
we  have  not  yet  acquired  nor  inherited  anything.  We 
become  rich  and  old  at  the  same  moment  ;  for  seldom  do 
men  obtain  every  advantage  at  one  and  the  same  time. 
But  even  if  some  persons  are  so  fortunate,  we  ought  not 
to  envy  them,  since  they  lose  by  their  death  sufficiently 
to  deserve  our  compassion. 

(40.)  A  man  is  thirty  years  old  before  he  thinks  of 
making  his  fortune,  but  it  is  not  completed  at  fifty  ;  he 
begins  to  build  in  his  old  age,  and  dies  by  the  time  his 
house  is  in  a  condition  to  be  painted  and  glazed. 

(41.)  What  is  the  advantage  of  having  a  large  fortune, 
unless  it  be  to  enjoy  the  vanity,  industry,  labour  and  out- 
lay of  those  who  came  before  us,  and  to  labour  ourselves 
in  planting,  building,  and  hoarding  for  our  posterity  ? 

(42.)  Men  open  their  shops  and  set  out  their  wares 
every  morning  to  deceive  their  customers ;  and  they 
close  them  at  night  after  having  cheated  all  day.  ' : 

(43.)  A  tradesman  turns  over  all  his  goods,  that  he 
may  sell  you  the  worst  ;  he  has  a  certain  preparation  to  ^ 
give  them  a  lustre,  or  else  holds  these  goods  in  a  peculiar 
light,  to  conceal  their  faults  and  to  make  them  appear 
sound ;  he  asks  too  large  a  price  for  them,  so  as  to  sell 
them  for  more  than  they  are  worth ;  he  has  forged 
mysterious  trade-marks,  so  that  people  may  believe  they 
get  the  full  value  for  their  hard  cash  ;  he  employs  a  short 
yard  measure,  so  that  the  buyer  may  obtain  as  little  for 
his  money  .as  possible,  and  has  a  pair  of  scales  to  try 
whether  the  gold  he  receives  be  of  full  weight. 

(44.)   In  all  conditions  of  life  a  poor  man  is  a  near 


Louis  XIV.  and  Mdlle.  de  la  Valliere,  and  royal  treasurer  at  OrM.ins,  or 
Boucherat,  chancelier  de  France,  and  a  perfect  noodle,  according  to  St 
Simon's  Mimoires,  were  alluded  to  as  the  "  weak-minded  men." 


148  OF   THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

neighbour  to  an  honest  one,^  and  a  rich  man  is  as  little 
removed  from  a  knave ;  tact  and  ability  alone  seldom 
procure  great  riches. 

A  show  of  a  certain  amount  of  honesty  is  in  any  pro- 
fession or  business  the  surest  way  of  growing  rich. 

(45.)  The  shortest  and  best  way  of  making  your  for- 
tune is  to  let  people  clearly  see  that  it  is  their  interest  to 
promote  yours. 

(46.)  Some  men,2  stimulated  by  the  necessities  of  life, 
and  sometimes  by  a  desire  to  gain  money  or  glory,  im- 
prove their  secular  talents  or  adopt  a  profession  far  from 
reputable,  and  overlook  its  danger  and  consequences  for 
a  considerable  time  ;  they  leave  it  afterwards  from  secret 
and  devout  reasons,  which  never  stirred  them  before 
they  had  reaped  their  harvest  and  enjoyed  a  comfort- 
able income. 

(47.)  There  exist  miseries  in  this  world  which  wring 
the  very  heart ;  some  people  want  even  food  ;  they  dread 
the  winter  and  are  afraid  to  live  ;  others  eat  hothouse 
fruits  ;  the  earth  and  the  seasons  are  compelled  to  fur- 
nish forth  delicacies  ;  and  mere  citizens,  simply  because 
they  have  grown  rich,  dare  to  swallow  in  one  morsel 
what  would  nourish  a  hundred  families.  Whatever  may 
be  brought  forward  against  such  extremes,  let  me  be 
neither  unhappy  or  happy  if  I  can  help  it  ;  I  take  re- 
fuge in  mediocrity. 

(48.)  It  is  well  known  that  the  poor  are  sad  because 
they  want  everything  and  nobody  comforts  them  ;  but 
if  it  be  true  that  the  rich  are  irascible,  it  is  because  they 


1  See  page  43,  note  2. 

2  A  few  of  the  "  Keys"  give  Racine  the  poet  as  the  original  of  such  a 
man,  but  this  is  very  unlikely,  for  Racine  was  a  friend  of  our  author,  and, 
moreover,  had  acquired  more  glory  than  riches. 


OF   THE  GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE.  1 49 

may  want  the  smallest  thing,  or  that  some  one  might 
oppose  them. 

(49.)  A  man  is  rich  whose  income  is  larger  than  his 
expenses,  and  he  is  poor  if  his  expenses  are  greater  than 
his  income. 

There  are  some  men  ^  who  with  an  annual  revenue  of 
two  millions  are  yearly  still  five  hundred  thousand  livres 
in  arrears. 

Nothing  keeps  longer  than  a  middling  fortune,  and 
nothing  melts  away  sooner  than  a  large  one. 

Great  riches  are  a  temptation  for  poverty. 

If  it  be  true  that  a  man  is  rich  who  wants  nothing,  a 
wise  man  is  a  very  rich  man.2 

If  a  man  be  poor  who  wishes  to  have  everything, 
then  an  ambitious  and  a  miserly  man  languish  \n  extreme 
poverty. 

(50.)  Passions  tyrannise  over  mankind,  but  ambition 
keeps  the  others  in  abeyance,  and  makes  for  a  while  a 
man  appear  to  possess  every  virtue. 

I  once  believed  that  Tryphon,  whom  I  now  know  to 
practise  every  vice,  was  sober,  chaste,  liberal,  modest, 
and  even  pious  ;  I  might  have  believed  so  still  if  he  had 
not  made  his  fortune. 

(5 1.)  All  that  a  man  wishes  for  is  riches  and  grandeur ; 
he  falls  very  ill,  and  death  draws  near,  and  though  his 
face  be  shrivelled  and  his  legs  totter,  yet  he  is  still 
talking  of  his  fortune  and  his  post. 


1  Some  commentators  think  that  the  Marquis  de  Seignelay,  the  eldest 
son  of  Colbert,  is  meant  here  ;  for  after  his  death,  which  took  place  when 
he  was  only  thirty-nine  years  old,  he  is  said  to  have  left  five  millions  livres 
debts ;  others  pretend  he  left  a  capital  large  enough  to  yield  a  yearly  income 
of  four  hundred  thousand  francs. 

2  Boileau,  in  his  fifth  Epltre,  says  also  :  "Qui  vit  content  de  rien  possfede 
toute  chose." 


150  OF   THE   GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE. 

/     (52.)  There  are  but  two  ways  of  rising  in  the  world, 
'either  by  your  own  industry  or  by  the  folly  of  others. 

(53.)  The  features  may  indicate  the  natural  disposi- 
tion, habits,  and  morals  of  a  man,  but  it  is  the  expression 
of  the  whole  countenance  that  discovers  his  wealth  ;  it 
is  written  in  a  man's  face  whether  he  has  more  or  less 
than  a  thousand  livres  a  year. 

(54.)  Chrysantes,  a  wealthy  and  impertinent  man, 
would  think  it  a  disgrace  to  be  seen  with  Eugenius,  who 
is  a  man  of  merit  but  poor ;  Eugenius  entertains  the 
same  feelings  towards  Chrysantes  ;  so  there  is  no  chance 
of  their  ever  quarrelling  together. 

(55.)  When  I  see  some  persons,  who  formerly  were 
the  first  to  bow  to  me,  wait,  on  the  contrary,  till  I  salute 
them,  and  stand  on  ceremony  with  me,  I  say  to  my- 
self, "All  this  is  mighty  fine,  and  I  am  very  glad  things 
go  so  well  with  them  ;  it  is  quite  certain  that  those  gentle- 
men live  in  larger  houses,  have  handsomer  furniture  and 
better  repasts  than  formerly,  and  that  for  the  last  few 
months  they  have  had  a  share  in  a  business  by  which 
they  have  already  made  some  very  good  profit.  Pray 
Heaven  they  may  in  a  short  time  come  even  to  despise 
me!" 

(56.)  If  thoughts,  books,  and  their  authors  were 
depending  on  the  rich  and  on  those  who  have  made  a 
large  fortune,  they  would  all  be  exiled,  and  that  without 
appeal.  Such  men  act  superciliously  and  lord  it  over 
the  learned  !  They  keep  their  dignity  with  those  poor 
wretches  whose  merit  has  not  advanced  or  enriched 
them,  and  who  still  think  and  write  sensibly  !  We  must 
confess  that  at  present  the  rich  predominate,  but  the 
future  will  be  for  the  virtuous  and  ingenious.  Homer 
lives  still  and  will  ever  flourish,  whilst  the  tax-gatherers 


■^<yjj^'-' 


DESCARTES 


OF    THE    GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE,  151 

and  publicans  are  no  more  and  are  utterly  forgotten, 
and  their  native  country  and  their  very  names  are  un- 
known at  present.  Were  there  any  fanners  of  the 
revenue  in  Greece  ?  What  has  become  of  all  those 
important  personages  who  despised  Homer,  who  were 
careful  to  avoid  him,  who  never  bowed  to  him,  or,  if 
they  did  so,  never  called  him  "  Sir,"  who  did  not  think 
him  worthy  of  being  admitted  to  their  tables,  who  looked 
on  him  as  a  man  who  was  not  rich  and  had  written  a 
book  ?  What  will  become  of  the  Fauconnets  ?  ^  Will 
their  names  be  transmitted  to  posterity  as  the  name  of 
Descartes  was,  who,  though  born  a  Frenchman,  died  in 
Sweden  ?  ^ 

(5.7.)  The  same  amount  erf  pride  which  makes  a  man 
treat  haughtily  his  inferiors,  makes  him  cringe  servilely  ', 
to  those  above  him.      It  is  the  very  nature  of  this  vice, 
which  is  neither  based  on  personal  merit  nor  on  virtue, 
but  on  riches,  posts,  influence,  and  useless  knowledge, 
to  render  a  man  as  -superciHous  to  those  who  are  below  1 
him  as  to  over-value  those  who  are  of  a  loftier  rank  than    • 
they  themselves  are. 

(58.)  There  are  some  sordid  minds,  formed  of  slime 
and  filth,  to  whom  interest  and  gain  are  what  glory  and 
virtue  are  to  superior  souls ;  they  feel  no  other  pleasure  but 
to  acquire  money  and  never  to  lose  it ;  they  are  covetous 

1  Jean  Faxkcowntl, /ermUr-gifiUrai  dei  domaints  dt  Fratfct,  became  also 
receiver-general  of  iwo  other  taxes,  which  wa»  very  unusuaL  Our  author 
speaks  of"  Fauconnets,"  to  indicate  farmers  of  the  revenuei>  in  general,  though 
there  was  only  one  Fauconnet;  In  La  Bruyire's  time  the  fiaanciers  seem  to 
have  despised  men  of  letters  ;  but  later  on,  during  the  Regency  and  the  reigu 
of  Louis  XV.  and  Louis  XVI.,  it  b-^ciime  the  fashion  to  invite  literary  men 
on  ^very  festive  occasion,  and  to  lioni.se  them — a  custom  not  unknown,  even 
at  the  present  time,  and  in  other  couniries  than  France. 

'  Our  author  had  Ken^  Descartes'  (1596-1630)  name  printed  in  small 
capitals,  to  remind  his  readers  of  the  persecutions  this  philosopher  had 
suffered. 


-'X /-/<yjjl/^'^ 


DESCARTES 


OF   THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE.  151 

and  publicans  are  no  more  and  are  utterly  forgotten, 
and  their  native  country  and  their  very  names  are  un- 
known at  present.  Were  there  any  farmers  of  the 
revenue  in  Greece  ?  What  has  become  of  all  those 
important  personages  who  despised  Homer,  who  were 
careful  to  avoid  him,  who  never  bowed  to  him,  or,  if 
they  did  so,  never  called  him  "  Sir,"  who  did  not  think 
him  worthy  of  being  admitted  to  their  tables,  who  looked 
on  him  as  a  man  who  was  not  rich  and  had  written  a 
book  ?  What  will  become  of  the  Fauconnets  ?  ^  Will 
their  names  be  transmitted  to  posterity  as  the  name  of 
Descartes  was,  who,  though  born  a  Frenchman,  died  in 
Sweden  ?  ^ 

(57.)  The  same  amount  of  pride  which  makes  a  man 
treat  haughtily  his  inferiors,  makes  him  cringe  servilely  ; 
to  those  above  him.  It  is  the  very  nature  of  this  vice, 
which  is  neither  based  on  personal  merit  nor  on  virtue, 
but  on  riches,  posts,  influence,  and  useless  knowledge, 
to  render  a  man  as  supercilious  to  those  who  are  below  \ 
him  as  to  over-value  those  who  are  of  a  loftier  rank  than 
they  themselves  are. 

(58.)  There  are  some  sordid  minds,  formed  of  sHme 
and  filth,  to  whom  interest  and  gain  are  what  glory  and 
virtue  are  to  superior  souls ;  they  feel  no  other  pleasure  but 
to  acquire  money  and  never  to  lose  it ;  they  are  covetous 

1  Jean  'Faacormct,Jermier-ginh'aldes  domaines  de  France,  became  also 
receiver-general  of  two  other  taxes,  which  was  very  unusual.  Our  author 
speaks  of  "  Fauconnets, "  to  indicate  farmers  of  the  revenues  in  general,  though 
there  was  only  one  Fauconnet.  In  La  Bruycre's  time  the  financiers  seem  to 
have  despised  men  of  letters  ;  but  later  on,  during  the  Regency  and  the  reign 
of  Louis  XV.  and  Louis  XVI.,  it  became  the  fashion  to  invite  literary  men 
on  every  festive  occasion,  and  to  lionise  them — a  custom  not  unknown,  even 
at  the  present  time,  and  in  other  countries  than  France. 

2  Our  author  had  Ren^  Descartes'  (1596-1650)  name  printed  in  small 
capitals,  to  remind  his  readers  of  the  persecutions  this  philosopher  had 
suffered. 


152  OF   THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

and  are  always  wanting  ten  per  cent. ;  ^  they  only 
occupy  themselves  with  their  creditors  ;  always  dread 
the  lowering  or  calling  in  of  certain  monies ;  2  and  are 
absorbed  and  immerged  in  contracts,  deeds,  and  parch- 
ments. Such  people  are  neither  relatives,  friends,  citi- 
zens. Christians,  nor  perhaps  men  ;  they  have  money. 

(59.)  Let  us  first  except  those  noble  and  courageous 
minds,  if  there  are  any  yet  on  this  earth,  who  assist 
those  who  are  in  want,  contrive  to  do  good,  whom  no 
necessities,  nor  inequality  of  rank  or  fortune,  nor  intrigues 
can  separate  from  those  they  have  once  chosen  for  their 
friends  ;  and  after  having  made  this  remark,  let  us  boldly 
state  a  lamentable  truth,  which  makes  us  miserable  to 
think  about,  namely,  that  there  is  not  a  person  in  this 
world,  however  intimately  connected  with  us  by  social 
ties  or  by  friendship,  who  likes  us,  enjoys  our  society, 
has  a  great  many  times  offered  us  his  services,  and 
sometimes  even  rendered  us  one,  who,  when  swayed  by 
his  own  interests,  would  not  feel  inwardly  disposed  to 
break  with  us  and  become  our  enemy. 

(60.)  Whilst  Orontes  ^  is  increasing  in  years,  in 
wealth,  and  in  income,  a  girl  born  in  a  certain  family 
flourishes,  grows  up,  becomes  very  handsome,  and  enters 
on  her  sixteenth  year.  Orontes,  who  is  then  fifty,  of  in- 
ferior birth,  without  intelligence  and  the  smallest  merit, 
has  to  be  entreated  to  marry  that  young,  handsome,  and 
witty  girl,  and  is  preferred  to  all  his  rivals. 


1  Au  denier  dix  in  the  original. 

*  In  former  times  French  Governmfents  often  suppressed  certain  monies  or 
diminished  their  legal  value,  and  a  law  to  this  effect  had  been  passed  by 
Louis  XIV.  as  late  as  1679. 

3  Orontes  is  supposed  to  be  a  certain  M.  Neyret  de  la  Ravoye,  who  be- 
came later  trisorier-gineral  de  la  marine,  and  who  married  a  Mademoiselle 
Valiere. 


OF   THE   GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE.  153 

(61.)  Marriage,  which  ought  to  be  a  source  of  all 
felicity,  is  often  to  a  man  a  heavy  burden  which  crushes 
him  through  want  of  fortune.  For  his  wife's  and  chil- 
dren's sake  he  is  sorely  tempted  to  commit  fraud,  to  tell 
falsehoods,  and  obtain  illicit  gains.  It  must  be  a  dreadful 
situation  for  any  man  to  have  to  choose  between  roguery 
and  indigence. 

To  marry  a  widow  means,  in  plain  language,^  to 
make  one's  fortune,  though  this  is  not  always  the  case.^ 

(62.)  A  man  who  has  only  inherited  sufficient  money 
to  live  comfortably  as  a  lawyer  wishes  presently  to 
become  an  official,  then  a  magistrate,  and  finally  a 
judge.^  Thus  it  is  with  all  ranks  and  conditions  of 
men  straitened  or  limited  in  their  means,  who,  after 
having  attempted  several  things  beyond  their  power, 
force,  if  I  may  say  so,  their  destiny ;  they  have  neither 
sense  enough  to  forbear  being  rich  nor  to  continue 
rich. 

(63.)  Dine  comfortably,  Clearchus,*  make  a  good 
supper,  put  some  wood  on  the  fire,  buy  a  cloak,  put 
hangings  all  round  your  room,  for  you  have  no  love  for 
your  heir  ;  you  even  do  not  know  him  ;  you  have  not  got 
any. 

(64.)  When  we  are  young  we  lay  up  for  old  age  ; 
when  we  are  old  we  save  for  death  ;  a  prodigal  heir 
first  gives  us  a  splendid  funeral,  and  then  lavishes  what- 
ever money  is  left  to  him. 


^  Eh  bonfranfois  in  the  original ;  just  as  we  say  "  in  plain  English." 

^  A  certain  Count  de  Marsan  seems  to  have  made  his  fortune  by  marry- 
ing first  one  rich  widow  and  then  another. 

3  These  different  degrees  of  legal  dignity  were  formerly  in  French  prati- 
cien,  officier,  tnagistrat,  prisident. 

■•  Without  any  proof  whatever,  the  "  Keys"  pretend  that  a  certain  inten- 
dant  des  finances,  M.  du  Buisson,  was  meant. 


154  OF   THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

(65.)  After  his  death  a  miser  spends  more  money  in 

one  day  than  he  spent  in  ten  years  when  he  was  aHve  ; 

and  his  heir  more  in  ten  months  than  the  miser  could 

find  in  his  heart  to  part  with  during  his  whole  lifetime.^ 

(66.)  When  we  lavish  our  money  we  rob   our  heir ; 

/  when  we  merely  save  it  we  rob  ourselves.     The  middle 

/   course  is  to  be  just  to  ourselves  and  to  others. 

(67.)  Children,  perhaps,  would  be  dearer  to  their 
parents  and  parents  to  their  children,  were  it  not  for  the 
latter  being  their  heirs. 

(68.)  How  wretched  is  man's  estate,  and  how  it  makes 

one  sick  of  life  !    We  have  to  moil  and  toil,  to  watch,  to 

yield,  and  to  be  dependent,  to  acquire  a  little  money,  or 

else  we  get  it  at  the  last  gasp  of  our  nearest  relations. 

(    He  who  can  master  his  feelings  so  far  as  not  to  wish 

/    for  his  father's  death  is  an  honest  man. 

(69.)  A  person  who  expects  to  inherit  something  be- 
comes over-polite  ;  we  are  never  better  flattered,  better 
I    obeyed,  followed,  courted,  attended,  and  caressed  than 
by  those  who  hope  to  gain  by  our  death,  and  wish  it 
/    may  happen  soon. 

(70.)  As  far  as  different  places,  titles,  and  inheritances 
are  concerned,  all  men  look  upon  themselves  as  one 
another's  heirs,  and,  therefore,  quietly  and  stealthily  wish 
all  their  lives  for  one  another's  death.  The  happiest 
man,  under  such  circumstances,  is  he  who  has  most  to 
lose  by  his  death,  and  most  to  leave  to  his  successor. 

(71.)  It  is  said  of  gambhng  that  it  makes  all  ranks 
equal ;  but  there  is  often  such  a  strange  disparity  and 
such  a  vast,  immense,  and  profound  chasm  between  this 

1  The  miser  is  supposed  to  have  been  a  M.  Morstein,  formerly  chief 
treasurer  of  Poland,  who  went  to  reside  in  Paris,  where  he  died  in  1693  ; 
two  years  later  his  only  son  was  killed  at  the  siege  of  Namur. 


OF   THE  GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE.  155 

and  that  condition,  that  it  pains  us  to  see  such  ex- 
tremes meet  together.^  It  is  like  discord  in  music, 
like  colours  which  do  not  harmonise,  like  words  that 
clash  and  jar  on  our  ears,  like  those  sounds  and  noises 
which  make  us  shudder.  In  a  word,  it  is  a  subversion 
of  all  order  and  decency.  If  any  one  tells  me  gambling 
is  the  custom  throughout  the  whole  western  hemisphere, 
I  reply  that  perhaps  it  is  one  of  the  reasons  why  we  are 
considered  barbarians  in  another  part  of  the  globe,  and 
what  the  Eastern  nations  who  travel  this  way  particularly 
remark  of  us  in  their  journals.  I  have  not  the  smallest 
doubt  that  such  an  excessive  familiarity  appears  to  them 
as  disgusting  as  their  zotnbay  -  and  their  other  prostra- 
tions seem  to  us  incongruous. 

(72.)  An  assembly  of  the  provincial  states  or  a 
parliament  ^  meeting  to  discuss  a  very  important  matter 
of  business,  presents  nothing  so  grave  and  serious  as 


1  Thus  M.  Langlee,  a  "  man  sprung  from  nothing,"  as  St.  Simon  calls  him, 
but  a  first-rate  gambler,  played  for  several  years  every  day  with  the  king. 
See  also  page  139,  note  6.  Gourville  (see  page  137,  note  i)  gambled  with 
noblemen  of  the  highest  rank  ;  and  a  certain  Morin,  after  having  lost  large 
sums  of  money,  was  obliged  to  fly  to  London,  where  he  managed  the  gambling 
table  of  the  Duchess  de  Mazarin,  and  is  often  mentioned  by  St.  Evremond. 

*  Our  author  says  in  a  footnote  :  "  See  the  narratives  about  the  kingdom 
of  Siam."  The  zotnbay  seems  to  have  been  a  very  profound  inclination 
and  prostration  of  the  body.  In  "  A  New  Historical  Relation  of  Siam  by  M. 
de  Loubere,  envoy  extraordinary  from  the  French  king  to  the  king  of  Siam 
in  the  years  1687  and  i683,  done  out  of  French,"  and  printed  in  London  in 
1693,  we  find  "they  (the  Siamese)  kept  themselves  prostrated  on  their  knees 
and  elbows,  with  their  hands  joined  at  the  top  of  their  forehead,  and  their 
body  seated  on  their  heels  ;  to  the  end  that  they  may  lean  less  on  their  elbows, 
and  that  it  may  be  possible  (without  assisting  themselves  with  their  hands,  but 
keeping  them  still  joined  to  the  top  of  their  forehead)  to  raise  themselves  on 
their  knees,  and  fall  again  upon  their  elbows,  as  they  do  thrice  together,  as 
often  as  they  would  speak  to  their  king." 

3  In  the  French  parliaments  or  courts,  councillors  were  allowed  to  plead, 
and  justice  was  administered  in  the  king's  name  ;  but  these  parliaments  had 
DO  legislative  power,  and  had  only  to  register  the  royal  edicts  before  they 
became  law. 


IS6  OF   THE   GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE. 

a  table  crowded  with  gamblers  who  play  very  high ;  a 
melancholic  severity  is  depicted  on  every  countenance  ; 
implacable  towards  one  another,  and  irreconcilable 
enemies  as  long  as  they  are  together,  they  neither  re- 
gard relationship,  connections,  birth,  or  social  distinc- 
tions. Chance  alone,  that  blind  and  stem  divinity,  pre- 
,  sides  over  the  assembly,  and  pronounces  her  opinions 
like  a  sovereign  ;  people  show  their  respect  for  her  by 
remaining  very  silent,  and  by  being  more  attentive  than 
they  are  elsewhere.  Every  passion  seems  in  abeyance 
for  a  while,  to  give  way  to  one  passion  only,  during  which 
the  courtier  neither  pretends  to  be  gentle,  fawning,  polite, 
nor  pious. 

(73.)  Even  the  smallest  trace  of  their  former  con- 
dition seems  utterly  obliterated  in  those  who  have  made 
their  fortune  by  gambling ;  they  lose  sight  of  their 
equals,  and  associate  only  with  persons  of  the  highest 
rank.  It  is  true  that  the  fortune  of  the  die  or  lans- 
quenet^ often  puts  them  in  the  same  place  whence  it 
took  them.  2 

(74.)  I  am  not  surprised  that  there  are  gambling 
houses,  like  so  many  snares  laid  for  human  avarice ; 
like  abysses  where  many  a  man's  money  is  engulphed 
and  swallowed  up  without  any  hope  of  return ;  like 
frightful  rocks  against  which  the  gamblers  are  thrown 
and  perish  ;  that  certain  men  are  sent  forth  to  find  out 
the  precise  time  some  person  has  landed  with  newly 
got  prize-money,   or  who  has  gained  a  lawsuit  which 

1  A  game  of  chance  played  with  cards. 

2  Those  who  made  their  fortune  by  gambling  were,  according  to  the 
"  Keys,"  Courcillon,  Marquis  de  Dangeau,  who  left  behind  him  a  very 
valuable /owrwa/ of  the  sayings  and  doings  of  the  court  of  Louis  XIV., 
which  has  often  been  printed ;  but  he  did  not  owe  his  success  in  life  to  gam- 
bling alone  ;  and  Morin,  already  mentioned,  page  155,  note  i. 


OF  THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE.  157 

has  brought  him  in  a  goodly  sum,  or  who  has  received 
some  presents,  or  who  has  had  a  very  lucky  run  at  play  ; 
what  young  man  of  family  has  just  come  into  a  large 
inheritance,  or  what  desperate  clerk  will  venture  the 
monies  of  his  office  on  the  turn  of  a  card.  Truly  cheat- 
ing is  villainous  and  rascally,  but  it  is  an  old  and  well- 
known  trade,  and  practised  at  all  times  by  the  men 
we  call  professional  gamblers.  They  have  a  sign  out- 
side their  doors,  and  this  may  be  the  inscription  :  "  Here 
cheating  is  done  fairly ; "  for  I  suppose  they  do  not  pre- 
tend to  be  blameless.  Every  one  knows  that  if  a  man 
gambles  in  one  of  these  houses  he  is  certain  to  lose. 
What  to  me  is  unaccountable,  is  that  there  should  always 
be  as  many  fools  as  gamblers  want,  to  make  a  living  by 
them. 

(75.)  Thousands  have  been  ruined  by  gambling,  and 
yet  they  tell  you  very  coolly  they  cannot  do  without  it. 
What  an  idle  excuse  is  this  !  Is  there  any  violent  and 
shameful  passion  in  existence  to  which  we  cannot  apply 
the  same  language .''  Would  any  one  be  allowed  to  say, 
he  cannot  live  without  stealing,  murdering,  or  rushing 
into  all  kinds  of  excesses  ?  It  is  allowable  to  gamble  in 
a  frightful  manner,  without  intermission,  shame,  or  limit ; 
to  have  no  other  aim  but  the  total  ruin  of  your  adversary  ; 
to  be  carried  away  by  a  desire  for  gain,  thrown  into  de- 
spair by  losing  or  consumed  by  avarice  ;  to  risk  on  the 
turn  of  a  card  or  die  your  own  future  and  that  of  your 
wife  and  children  ;  or  should  we  do  without  it  yet  ?  And 
are  there  not  sometimes  worse  consequences  than  these 
at  the  gambling-table,  when  men  are  entirely  stripped, 
obliged  to  do  without  clothes  and  food,  and  cannot  pro- 
vide these  for  their  families  ? 

I   allow  no  one  to  be  a  knave,  but   I   will  allow  a 


IS8  OF   THE    GIFTS    OF    FORTUNE. 

knave  to  play  high,  but  not  an  honest  man,  for  it  is  too 
silly  to  expose  oneself  to  a  heavy  loss.^ 

(76.)  There  is  but  one  sorrow  which  is  lasting,  and 

that   is  one   produced  by  the   loss   of  propert)"^ ;  time, 

''  which  alleviates    all  others,  sharpens    this  ;    we  feel  it 

every  moment  during  the  course  of  our  lives  when  we 

miss  the  fortune  we  have  lost. 

(77.)  The  man  who  spends  his  fortune  without  mar- 
rying his  daughters,  paying  his  debts,  or  lending  it  out 
on  good  security,  may  be  well  enough  liked  by  every  one 
except  by  his  wife  and  children. 

(78.)  Neither  the  troubles,  Zenobia,^  which  disturb 
your  empire,  nor  the  war  which  since  the  death  of  the 
king,  your  husband,  you  have  so  heroically  maintained 
against  a  powerful  nation,  diminish  your  magnificence 
in  the  least.  You  have  preferred  the  banks  of  the  Eu- 
phrates to  any  other  country  for  erecting  a  splendid 
building ;  the  air  is  healthy  and  temperate,  the  situa- 
tion delightful ;  a  sacred  wood  shades  it  on  the  west ; 
the  Syrian  gods,  who  sometimes  visit  the  earth,  could 
not  choose  a  finer  abode  ;  the  adjacent  countrj'  is  peopled 
with  men  who  are  constantly  busy  shaping  and  cutting, 
coming  and  going,  rolling  or  carting  away  the  timber  of 
Mount  Lebanon,  brass  and  porphyr}' ;  the  air  rings  with 
the  noise  of  cranes  and  machinery ;  and  that  noise 
instils  a  hope  in  the  breasts  of  those  who  pass  that  way 


1  All  the  "  Keys"  give  as  the  model  of  a  perfect  gambler  a  certain  Louis 
Robert,  Seigneur  de  Fortille,  who  made  his  fortune  as  iniendant  of  diflfer- 
ent  army-corps,  and  lost  almost  everything  he  possessed  ;  but  as  the  passion 
for  gambling  was  very  common,  and  as  the  king  was  the  first  to  give  the  ex- 
ample of  it,  ruined  gamblers  were  to  be  found  in  plenty.  Cheating  at  play 
was  also  not  rare. 

2  Zenobia,  queen  of  Palmyra,  after  the  death  of  her  husband  Odena- 
thus,  waged  war  for  five  years  against  the  Romans,  and  was  vanquished  by 
Aurelian  in  the  year  273. 


OF  THE   GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE.  159 

to  go  to  Arabia,  that,  on  their  return  home,  they  may 
see  that  palace  finished,  with  all  the  splendour  you 
design  to  bestow  on  it  before  you,  or  the  princes,  your 
children,  make  it  your  dwelling.  Spare  nothing,  great 
queen  ;  make  use  of  your  gold  and  of  the  best  work- 
manship of  first-class  artists  ;  ^  let  the  Phidiasses  and 
Zeuxisses  ^  of  your  century  display  the  utmost  of  their 
skill  on  your  walls  and  ceilings  ;  lay  out  expensive  and 
delightful  gardens,  so  enchanting  that  they  do  not  seem 
created  by  the  hand  of  man  ;  exhaust  your  treasures  and 
your  energy  in  this  incomparable  edifice  ;  and,  after  you 
have  brought  it  to  perfection,  one  of  those  herdsmen 
who  dwell  in  the  neighbouring  sandy  deserts  of  Palmyra, 
and  who  has  enriched  himself  by  farming  the  tolls  of 
your  rivers,  will  purchase  one  day,  with  ready  money, 
this  royal  demesne,  and  add  fresh  embellishments  to  it, 
so  as  to  render  it  more  worthy  of  him  and  his  fortune.  ^ 
(79.)  This  palace,  this  furniture,  these  gardens,  those 
handsome  waterworks  charm  you,  and  on  first  beholding 
such  a  delightful  mansion,  you  cannot  forbear  express- 
ing your  opinion  that  its  owner  ought  to  be  superlatively 
happy.  He  is  no  more,  and  he  never  enjoyed  it  so  plea- 
santly and  so  quietly  as  you  did ;  he  never  knew  a  cheer- 


1  Ouvrier,  in  the  original,  is  sometimes  used  by  our  author  for  "artist." 

2  Phidias  (490-432  B.C.)  was  a  Greek  sculptor  of  renown  ;  Zeuxis  (424- 
400  B.C.),  a  Greek  painter,  who  is  said  to  have  painted  grapes  so  well  that 
some  birds  came  and  pecked  at  them. 

3  The  "herdsman"  alluded  to  in  the  above  paragraph  seems  to  have 
been  the  financier  La  Touanne,  tresorier  de  C extraordinaire  des  guerres. 
He  had  a  mansion  near  the  park  of  Saint  Maur,  part  of  an  estate  formerly 
belonging  to  Catherine  de  Medici  (Zenobia),  on  which  he  spent  enormous 
sums,  whilst  the  other  part  belonged  to  the  Prince  de  Cond^,  who  in  vain  tried 
10  induce  the  parvenu  to  sell  him  his  property.  Hence  the  attack  of  our 
author  on  the  man  who  dared  to  oppose  the  wishes  of  his  noble  patron. 
However,  when  this  paragraph  appeared,  La  Touanne  did  not  yet  live  at 
Saint  Maur.. 


l6o  OF  THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

ful  day  or  a  quiet  night ;  he  sunk  beneath  the  debts  he 
contracted  in  adorning  it  with  those  beauties  which  so 
dehght  you.  His  creditors  drove  him  from  it,  and  then 
he  turned  round  his  head  and  looked  upon  it  for  the 
last  time  ;  this  affected  him  so  much  that  it  caused  his 
death.  1 

(80.)  We  cannot  avoid  observing  the  strokes  of  fate 
or  the  freaks  of  fortune  which  happen  in  certain  families, 
and  which  a  hundred  years  ago  were  never  heard  of 
because  they  did  not  exist.  Providence,  on  a  sudden, 
bestows  its  favours  on  them ;  and  more  than  once 
showers  on  them  wealth,  honours,  and  dignities,  so  that 
they  bask  in  prosperity.  Eumolpus,^  one  of  those  men 
who  never  had  any  ancestors,  was  raised  so  high  that 
he  obtained  everything  he  desired  during  the  course  of 
a  long  life.  Was  this  owing  to  the  superior  intelligence 
and  to  the  profound  capacity  of  either  father  or  son,  or 
to  favourable  circumstances  ?  Fortune,  at  last,  smiles  on 
them  no  longer  ;  it  leaves  them  to  sport  elsewhere,  and 
treats  their  descendants  as  it  did  their  ancestors. 

(81.)  The  immediate  cause  of  the  ruin  and  overthrow 
of  gentlemen  of  the  long  robe  and  the  sword  is  that  they 
have  to  spend  their  money,  not  according  to  their  income, 
but  according  to  their  rank  in  society. 

(82.)  If  you  have  omitted  nothing  towards  making 
your  fortune,  how  great  has  been  your  labour  !  If  you 
have  neglected  the  most  trifling  thing,  how  lasting  will 
be  your  repentance  ! 

1  According  to  the  commentators,  this  refers  to  Jacques  Bordier,  ititen- 
dant  des  finances,  who,  after  having  spent  more  than  a  million  on  his  estate 
at  Raincy,  was  obliged  to  leave  it ;  but  his  creditors  did  not  expel  him,  for 
it  was  sold  by  his  heirs  after  his  death. 

2  The  Marquis  de  Seignelay  is  supposed  by  some  to  have  been  the  original 
of  Eumolpus  ;  he  did  not,  however,  enjoy  a  long  life.    (See  page  149,  note 


OF   THE    GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE.  ]6l 

(82.)  Giton  has  a  fresh  complexion,  a  full  face,  pen- 
dulous cheeks,  a  steady  and  resolute  look,  broad  shoulders, 
a  huge  chest,  a  firm  and  deliberate  gait ;  he  speaks  with 
assurance,  must  have  every  word  repeated  that  is  said 
to  him,  and  is  not  greatly  pleased  with  what  is  told  him. 
He  takes  a  large  handkerchief  out  of  his  pocket,  and 
blows  his  nose  with  a  tremendous  noise  :  he  expecto- 
rates about  the  room,  and  sneezes  very  loud  ;  he  sleeps 
by  day,  by  night,  and  that  soundly,  for  he  snores  in 
company.  He  takes  up  more  room  than  any  one  else 
at  table  or  whilst  walking,  and  walks  in  the  middle  of 
the  road  when  with  his  equals  ;  he  stops  and  they  stop  ; 
he  goes  forward  and  they  go  forward ;  all  are  governed 
by  what  he  does.  He  interrupts  and  corrects  those  who 
are  talking,  but  is  never  interrupted,  and  people  listen 
to  him  as  long  as  he  likes  to  speak,  for  their  ideas  are 
like  his,  and  they  take  it  for  granted  that  the  news  he 
tells  them  is  perfectly  true.  If  he  sits  down  he  throws 
himself  into  an  easy-chair,  crosses  his  legs,  frowns,  pulls 
his  hat  over  his  eyes  so  as  to  see  no  one,  or  suddenly 
draws  it  back  to  show  a  supercilious  and  bold  countenance ; 
he  is  merr)',  ever  laughing,  impatient,  impudent,  a  fiee- 
thinker,^  and  a  politician  full  of  secrets  about  the  affairs 
of  the  day  ;  he  thinks  he  has  talents  and  intelligence  ;  he 
is  wealthy, 

Phasdo  has  sunken  eyes,  a  reddish  complexion,  a  lean 
body  and  an  emaciated  countenance  ;  he  sleeps  very 
little,  and  his  slumbers  are  light  ;  he  is  absent-minded, 
pensive,  and,  with  some  intelligence,  looks  like  a  dolt ;  he 
forgets  to  say  what  he  knows  or  to  speak  about  those 


'  Libertin,  in  the  original,  which  first  meant  a  man  of  free-and-easy 
manners,  came  to  be  chiefly  used  in  the  second  half  of  tiie  seventeenth 
century  fur  a  "  freetiiinker." 

L 


1 62  OF   THE   GIFTS   OF    FORTUNE. 

incidents  with  which  he  is  acquainted  ;  if  he  says  some- 
thing now  and  then,  he  does  it  badly  ;  he  thinks  he 
bores  those  persons  to  whom  he  addresses  himself,  and 
therefore  tells  his  story  briefly  but  coldly,  so  that  he  is 
never  listened  to  nor  taken  notice  of,  for  he  makes  no- 
body laugh.  He  praises  and  laughs  at  other  persons' 
jests,  is  of  their  opinions,  and  runs  and  flies  to  render 
.  them  some  small  services  ;  he  is  over  polite,  and  flatters 
and  waits  on  them  ;  he  is  close  about  his  own  affairs, 
and  does  not  always  tell  the  truth  about  them  ;  he  is  very 
peculiar,!  scrupulous,  and  timorous.  He  steps  lightly 
and  softly,  and  seems  afraid  to  tread  the  ground  ;  he 
walks  with  his  eyes  downward,  and  dares  not  raise  them 
to  face  the  passers-by  ;  he  never  joins  in  any  conversa- 
tion, but  places  himself  behind  the  person  who  speaks  ; 
picks  up  by  stealth  all  that  has  been  said,  and  withdraws 
if  any  one  looks  at  him.  He  does  not  take  up  any  room 
nor  fill  a  place  anywhere  ;  he  walks  about  with  his  arms 
close  to  his  body,  his  hat  over  his  eyes  that  he  may  not 
be  seen,  and  wraps  and  folds  himself  up  in  his  cloak. 
There  is  no  street  nor  gallery  so  crowded  and  filled  with 
people,  but  he  finds  a  way  to  get  through  without  jostling, 
and  to  steal  along  unperceived.  If  they  beg  him  to  sit 
down,  he  seats  himself  on  the  edge  of  a  chair,  and  talks 
in  a  low  voice  and  not  very  distinctly  ;  he  freely  expresses, 
however,  his  opinion  on  public  affairs,  is  angry  with  the 
age,  and  but  indifferently  pleased  with  the  cabinet  and 
the  ministers  ;  he  seldom  opens  his  mouth  but  to  reply  ; 
he  coughs  and  blows  his  nose  with  his  hat  before  his 
face,  he  almost  expectorates  on  himself,  and  does  not 

1  Sitpentitietix  sometimes  had  the  above   meaning  ;  Littre   gives  two 
examples  of  it  in  his  dictionary. 


OF   THE   GIFTS   OF   FORTUNE.  1 63 

sneeze  till  he  is  alone,  or  if  it  does  happen,  no  one 
hears  it,  so  that  no  one  has  to  say  "  God  bless  you." 
He  is  poor.i 

1  Giton  and  Phxdo  do  not  apply  to  any  one  in  particular,  though  some 
commentators  maintain  that  by  the  first  the  Marquis  de  Barbezieux,  the  son 
of  Louvois,  was  meant. 


VIII. 


OF  THE  TOWN.i 


(i.)    TDEOPLE   in   Paris,   without    giving   any    notice 
beforehand,   and   as    if  it   were   some    public 
:  assignation,   meet  every  evening  on  the   Cours^  or  in 
the  Tuileiies,  to  stare  around  and  criticise  one  another. 

1  Now  we  speak  of  town  and  country,  but  in  La  Bruyere's  time  people 
mentioned  tlie  town  or  city  and  the  court,  wholly  different  in  customs  and 
manners.     Boileau  begins  his  Satires  with  the  two  following  lines — 

"  Damon,  ce  grand  auteur  dont  la  muse  fertile, 
Amusa  si  long-temps  et  la  cour  et  la  ville." 
Our  author  places  his  chapter  "  Of  the  Town"  before  that  "  Of  the  Court" 
and  "  Of  the  Great,"  and  leads  up  to  that  "  Of  the  Sovereign." 

2  Le  Cours  la  Reine,  familiarly  called  Le  Cours,  was  a  part  of  the  Champs- 


OF  THE   TOWN.  1 65 

They  cannot  dispense  with  those  very  persons  whom 
they  do  not  like  and  whom  they  deride. 

They  wait  for  one  another  in  these  public  walks,^  and 
they  examine  one  another ;  carriages,  horses,  liveries, 
coats  of  arms,  nothing  escapes  their  gaze ;  everything 
is  looked  at  keenly  or  maliciously,  and  they  respect  or 
contemn  the  persons  they  meet  according  to  the  greater 
or  lesser  splendour  of  their  equipages. 

(2. )  Everybody  knows  that  long  bank^  which  borders 
and  confines  the  Seine  where  it  joins  the  Marne  on 
entering  Paris  ;  close  by  men  come  to  bathe  during 
the  heat  of  the  dog-days,  and  people  at  a  little  distance 
see  them  amuse  themselves  by  jumping  in  and  out  of 
the  water.  Now,  as  long  as  there  is  no  bathing,  the  city 
ladies  never  walk  that  way,  and  when  the  season  is  over 
they  walk  there  no  longer. ^ 

(3.)  In  those  places  of  general  resort,  where  the 
ladies  assemble  only  to  show  their  fine  dresses,  and  to 
reap  the  reward  for  the  trouble  they  have  taken  with 
their  apparel,  people  do  not  walk  with  a  companion  for 
the  pleasure  of  conversation,  but  they  herd  together  to 
get  a  little  more  confidence,  to  accustom  themselves  to 
the  public,  and  to  keep  one  another  in  countenance 
against  criticisms.  They  talk  but  say  nothing,  or  rather 
they  talk  to  be  taken  notice  of  by  those  for  whose  sake 


Elys^es,  planted  with  trees  by  order  of  Maria  de  Medici,  the  wife  of  Henri 
IV.  ;  hence  the  name.  The  theatre  finished  then  at  seven  o'clock,  when  it 
was  not  too  late  to  take  a  walk  in  summer-time.  See  also  Moli^re's  Les 
F&cheux,  act  i.  scene  i. 

1  The  favourite  and  fashionable  walk,  during  the  latter  part  of  the  seven- 
teenth century,  was  from  Paris  to  Vincennes. 

2  That  bank  is  now  the  quays  Saint-Bernard  and  Austerlitz. 

3  Bourdaloue  (1632-1704),  a  celebrated  preacher,  censures  a  similar  be- 
haviour in  his  sermon  on  Les  Divertissements  du  Monde. 


1 66  OF   THE  TOWN. 

they  raise  their  voices,  gesticulate,  joke,  bow  carelessly, 
and  walk  up  and  down. 

(4.)  The  town  is  split  up  into  several  sets,  which, 
like  so  many  little  republics,  have  their  peculiar  laws, 
customs,  dialects,  and  jests.  As  long  as  such  a  set 
remains  in  force,  and  as  long  as  the  conceit  lasts, 
nothing  is  allowed  to  be  well  said  or  well  done  which  it 
had  no  hand  in,  and  it  cannot  enjoy  anything  from 
strangers  ;  it  even  contemns  those  who  have  not  been 
initiated  in  its  mysteries.  An  intelligent  man,  whom 
chance  has  thrown  amongst  the  members  of  such  a 
set,  is  a  stranger  to  them  :  he  is,  as  it  were,  in  a 
distant  country,  where  he  is  ignorant  of  the  roads,  the 
language,  the  manners  and  the  laws  ;  he  sees  a  sort  of 
people  who  talk,  rattle,  whisper,  burst  out  laughing,  and 
presently  relapse  into  a  gloomy  silence ;  he  does  not 
know  what  to  do,  and  can  hardly  tell  where  to  put  in 
a  word,  or  even  when  to  listen.  Some  sorry  buffoon  is 
ever  at  hand  who  is  the  head  and,  as  it  were,  the  hero  of 
such  a  set,  and  has  always  to  keep  them  merry  and  to 
make  them  laugh  before  he  has  uttered  a  single  word. 
If  at  any  time  a  woman  comes  amongst  them,  who  is 
not  one  of  them,  these  jolly  fellows  are  amazed  she  does 
not  laugh  at  things  she  cannot  understand,  and  appears 
not  to  be  amused  with  some  nonsense  they  would  not 
understand  themselves,  if  it  were  not  their  own  ;  they 
will  not  overlook  her  tone  of  voice,  her  silence,  her 
figure,  her  dress,  her  coming  or  going  out  of  the  room. 
This  same  set,  however,  does  not  last  two  years  ;  in  the 
first  year  are  already  sown  those  seeds  of  division  which 
break  it  up  the  following  year ;  quarrels  about  some 
woman,  disputes  at  play,  extravagant  entertainments, 
which,  though  moderate  at  first,  soon  degenerate  into 


OF   THE   TOWN.  1 67 

pyramids  of  viands  and  sumptuous  banquets,  overthrow 
the  commonwealth,  and  finally  give  it  a  mortal  blow, 
and  in  a  little  while  there  is  no  more  talk  about  them 
than  about  last  year's  flies. 

(5.)  There  are  in  town  lawyers  belonging  to  the 
grande  robe,  and  others  to  the  petite  robe  ;  ^  and  the  first 
take  on  the  second  their  revenge  for  the  contempt  and  the 
supercilious  way  in  which  they  are  treated  by  a  court  of 
justice.  It  is  not  easy  to  know  where  the  grande  robe 
begins  and  the  petite  ends  ;  there  is  even  a  large  number 
of  lawyers  who  refuse  to  belong  to  the  second  class  and 
who  are  yet  not  considered  to  be  of  the  first ;  they  will, 
however,  not  abandon  their  pretensions,  but,  on  the 
contrary,  endeavour,  by  their  sedate  carriage  and  by 
the  money  they  spend,  to  show  themselves  the  equals 
of  the  magistrates  ;  they  have  often  been  heard  to  say 
that  their  sublime  duties,  the  independence  of  their  pro- 
fession, their  eloquence,  and  their  personal  merits,  bal- 
ance at  least  the  bags  of  money  which  the  sons  of  finan- 
ciers and  bankers  have  paid  for  their  offices. 

(6.)  You  are  very  inconsiderate  to  sit  musing,  or 
perhaps  dosing,  in  your  carriage.  Rouse  yourself,  and 
take  a  book  or  your  papers,  and  begin  to  read  ;  and 
hardly  return  the  bows  of  those  people  who  pass  you 
in  their  carriages,  for  they  will  believe  you  to  be  very 
busy,  and  say  everywhere  that  you  are  hard-working  and 
indefatigable,  and  that  you  read  and  work  even  in  the 


1  To  the  grande  robe  belonged  all  magistrates  ;  to  the  petite  robe  all  avoues 
and  procureurs,  somewhat  like  attorneys  and  solicitors ;  the  avocats  or 
barristers  were  between  the  two,  and  the  court  of  justice  or  parUvtent 
above  them  all. 

2  The  avocats  were  generally  not  considered  to  belong  to  the  grande  robe, 
and  La  Bruyere  was  one  of  them  ;  the  latter  part  of  the  paragraph  is  a 
direct  attack  on  the  sale  of  legal  offices. 


1 68  OF   THE   TOWN. 

Streets  or  on  the  highroad.^  You  may  learn  from  a 
pettifogger  that  you  should  ever  seem  to  be  immersed 
in  business,  knit  your  brows  and  muse  most  profoundly 
about  nothing  at  all ;  that  you  should  not  always  have 
the  time  for  eating  or  drinking,  and  that  as  soon  as  you 
are  in  the  house  you  should  vanish  like  a  ghost,  and 
betake  yourself  to  your  dark  private  room,  hide  yourself 
from  the  public,  avoid  the  theatre,  and  leave  that  to 
those  who  run  no  risk  in  appearing  there,  though  they 
have  hardly  the  leisure  for  it,  to  the  Gomons  and  the 
Duhamels.2 

{7,)  There  are  a  certain  number  of  young  magistrates 
with  large  estates  and  fond  of  pleasure,  who  have  be- 
come acquainted  with  some  of  those  men  who  are 
called  at  court  "dandies;"  they  imitate  them,  behave 
in  a  manner  unbecoming  the  gravity  of  a  judge,  and 
believe  that  on  account  of  their  youth  and  fortune  they 
have  no  need  to  be  discreet  or  passionless.  They 
borrow  from  the  court  the  very  worst  qualities,  appro- 
priate to  themselves  vanity,  effeminacy,  intemperance, 
and  indecency,  as  if  all  those  vices  were  their  privilege, 
thus  affecting  a  character  quite  the  opposite  to  what 
they  ought  to  maintain,  and,  in  the  end,  according  to 
their  wishes,  become  exact  copies  of  very  wicked  ori- 
ginals.2 

(8.)  A  gentleman  of  the  legal  profession  is  not  like 
the  same  man  in  the  city  and  at  court  3  when  he  has 


1  This  applies,  according  to  the  "  Keys,"  to  a  certain  M.  de  la  Briffe,  a 
niattre  des  requites,  or  to  M.  de  Saint-Pouange.     (See  page  134,  note  3.) 

2  Two  celebrated  barristers  of  La  Bruyere's  time. 

3  J.  H.  de  Mesmes,  who  became  pr^sideni  a.  inortier  in  1688,  when  he 
was  only  twenty-seven  years  old,  is  said  to  have  been  a  constant  com- 
panion of  profligate  young  noblemen.  A  wzor/iVr  was  a  round  velvet  cap, 
worn  by  the  Chancellor  and  Presidents  of  parliaments. 


OF  THE  TOWN,  1 69 

returned  home  he  resumes  his  natural  manners,  look, 
and  gestures,  which  he  left  behind,  and  is  no  longer  so 
embarrassed  nor  so  polite. 

(9.)  The  Crispins  join  and  club  together  to  drive  out 
with  six  horses  to  their  carriage,  and  with  a  swarm  of 
men  in  livery,  to  which  each  has  furnished  his  share  ; 
they  figure  at  the  Cours  or  at  Vincennes  ^  as  bril- 
■  liantly  as  a  newly-married  couple,  or  as  Jason  who  is 
ruining  himself,  or  as  Thraso  who  wishes  to  get  mar- 
ried, and  who  has  deposited  the  money  to  buy  an  im- 
portant place.- 

(10.)  I  hear  a  good  deal  of  talk  about  the  Sannions  ; 
about  "  the  same  nam.e,  the  same  arms,  the  elder  branch, 
the  younger  branch,  the  younger  sons  of  the  second 
branch  ;  about  the  first  bearing  their  arms  plain,  the 
second  with  a  label,  and  the  third  with  a  bordure  in- 
dented," Their  colour  and  metal  are  the  same  as 
those  of  the  Bourbons,  and,  like  them,  they  bear  two 
and  one ;  ^  it  is  true  these  are  not  "  fleurs  de  lis,"  but 
they  are  satisfied ;  periiaps,  in  their  inmost  hearts,  they 
believe  their  bearings  as  noble ;  at  least,  they  are 
the  same  as  those  of  lords  of  the  highest  rank  who 
are  quite  content  with  them.  We  see  them  on  their 
mourning  hangings,*  and  on  the  windows  of  their 
chapels,  on  the  gates  of  their  castle,  on  their  justiciary 

1  See  page  165,  note  i. 

2  The  original  has  et  qui  a  consign^,  a  meaning  which  we  have  still  in 
the' English  word  "consignment."  The  explanation  of  this  word  is  given  by 
the  author  himself. 

3  An  allusion  to  the  three  fleurs  de  lis  of  the  Bourbons. 

*  Litre,  in  the  original,  is  a  kind  of  mourning  hangings,  or,  rather,  a 
broad  velvet  band  on  which  the  coats  of  arms  of  certain  nobles  were 
painted,  and  which  was  placed  around  the  church,  inside  as  well  as 
outside.  The  right  of  using  the  litre  belonged  only  to  noblemen  who 
had  founded  a  church,  or  to  those  who  had  exercised  a  certain  jurisdiction 
in  their  donmins. 


17©  OF    THE    TOWN. 

pillar,  where  many  a  man  is  condemned  to  be  hanged 
who  only  deserved  banishment ;  they  are  visible  any- 
where, on  their  furniture  and  their  locks,  while  their 
carriages  are  covered  with  them,  and  the  liveries  of 
their  servants  do  not  disgrace  their  escutcheon.  I 
should  like  to  tell  the  Sannions  that  their  ostentation  is 
too  precipitate  ;  that  they  should  have  waited  at  least 
until  their  race  had  existed  a  century  ;  that  those  persons 
who  knew  and  conversed  with  their  grandfather  are  old 
and  cannot  live  long,  and  that,  after  their  death,  no  one 
will  be  able  to  say  where  he  kept  his  shop,  and  what 
a  very  dear  one  it  was. 

The  Sannions  and  the  Crispins  ^  had  rather  be 
thought  extravagant  than  covetous ;  they  tell  you  a 
long  story  of  a  feast  or  a  collation  they  gave,  of  their 
losses  at  play,  and  express  aloud  their  regrets  they  have 
not  lost  more.  They  mention  in  their  peculiar  language 
certain  ladies  of  their  acquaintance ;  they  have  ever 
many  pleasant  things  to  tell  each  other,  are  always 
making  new  discoveries,  and  confide  to  one  another 
their  successes  with  the  fair.  One  of  them,  coming  lately 
to  his  country-house,  hastens  to  bed,  and  rises  with  the 
dawn,  then  puts  on  his  gaiters  and  a  linen  suit,  and 
fastens  on  his  belt  and  his  powder-horn,  ties  back  his 
hair,  takes  his  gun,  and  is  a  sportsman,  if  he  did  but 
shoot  well.  He  returns  at  night,  wet  and  weary,  with- 
out any  game,  but  goes  shooting  again  on  the  morrow, 
and  spends  the  whole  day  in  missing  thrushes  and 
partridges. 


1  The  commentators  hint  at  several  magistrates  as  the  originals  of  the 
Crispins,  and  imagine  that  the  Sannions  were  the  family  of  Leclerc  de 
Lesseville,  the  descendants  of  rich  tanners,  who  became  ennobled  for 
having  lent  20,000  crowns  to  Henry  IV.  alter  the  battle  of  Ivry. 


OF  THE  TOWN.  171 

Another  man  ^  speaks  of  some  wretched  dogs  he  has 
as  "  his  pack  of  hounds  ; "  he  knows  where  the  meet  is 
held,  and  goes  there ;  he  is  at  the  starting,^  and  enters 
the  thicket  with  the  huntsmen,  with  his  horn  by  his 
side ;  he  does  not  ask,  like  Menalippus,  "  Do  I  enjoy 
myself?"^  but  he  thinks  he  does;  he  forgets  the  law 
and  all  lawsuits,  and  would  be  thought  an  Hippolytus.* 
Menander,  who  yesterday  was  engaged  in  a  lawsuit,  paid 
him  a  visit,  but  to-day  would  not  know  again  his  judge. 
To-morrow  you  may  see  him  at  court,  where  a  weighty 
and  capital  case  is  going  to  be  tried  ;  he  gets  liis  learned 
brethren  about  him,  and  informs  them  that  he  did  not 
lose  the  stag,  but  that  he  is  quite  hoarse  with  hallooing 
after  the  hounds  which  lost  the  scent,  or  after  those 
sportsmen  who  were  at  fault,  and  that,  with  half  a  dozen 
hounds,  he  was  in  at  the  death  ;  but  the  clock  strikes, 
and  he  has  no  more  time  to  talk  of  the  stag  being  at 
bay,  or  of  the  quarry  :  he  must  take  his  seat  with  the 
other  magistrates  and  administer  justice. 

(11.)  How  great  is  the  infatuation  of  certain  men,  , 
who,  being  possessed  of  the  wealth  their  fathers  ac- 
quired by  trade,  which  they  have  just  inherited,  imitate 
princes  in  their  dress  and  retinue,  and  by  excessive  \ 
expenditure  and  ridiculous  pomp  provoke  the  remarks 
and  sneers  of  the  whole  town  they  think  to  dazzle,  and 
thus  ruin  themselves  to  be  laughed  at  ! 


1  This  "  other  man  "  was  a  certain  President  de  Coigneux,  who  neglected 
his  legal  duties  to  spend  all  his  time  in  sport. 

2  Laisse-courre  in  French  ;  formerly  courre  « as  used  instead  of  courir, 
as  a  sporting  term. 

3  A  M.  Jerome  de  Nouveau,  the  head  of  the  post-office,  is  said  to  have 
asked  his  head  huntsman  a  similar  question. 

*  Hippolytus,  son  of  Theseus,  king  of  Athens,  "a  youth  who  never  knew 
a  woman,"  thrown  from  his  chariot  and  killed,  is  the  hero  of  Racine's 
tragedy  Fhidre. 


172  OF   THE   TOWN. 

Some  have  not  even  the  sorry  advantage  of  having  their 
follies  talked  about  beyond  their  immediate  neighbour- 
hood, and  the  only  spot  where  their  vanity  is  displayed. 
They  do  not  know  in  the  lie  that  Andr^  makes  a  figure 
and  squanders  his  patrimony  in  the  Marais.^  If  he  were 
only  better  known  in  town  and  in  the  suburbs,  perhaps, 
amongst  so  large  a  number  of  citizens,  who  are  not  all 
able  to  judge  sensibly  of  everything,  possibly  one  of  them 
might  declare  Andre  has  a  magnificent  spirit,  and  give 
him  credit  for  his  banquets  to  Xanthe  and  Ariston,  and 
for  his  entertainments  to  Elamire  ;  but  he  ruins  himself 
obscurely,  and  hastens  to  become  poor  only  for  the 
sake  of  two  or  three  persons,  who  do  not  esteem  him  in 
the  least,  and  though  at  present  he  rides  in  his  coach, 
in  six  months  he  will  hardly  be  able  to  go  on  foot.^ 

(12.)  Narcissus^  rises  in  the  morning  to  lie  down 
at  night ;  he  spends  as  many  hours  in  dressing  as  a 
woman  ;  he  goes  every  day  to  mass  at  the  Feuillants  or 
the  Minims ;  *  is  very  agreeable  in  company,  and  in 
his  parish  they  reckon  on  him  to  make  a  third  man 
at  ombre  or  reversis.^     He  sits  for  hours  together  at 


1  The  lie  meant  nearly  always  the  He  Saint-Louis  ;  the  Quartier  du 
Temple,  formerly  the  Marais,  is  even  sometimes  now  called  by  that  name. 

2  The  commentators  have  given  the  names  of  several  obscure  people  for 
those  "infatuated  men,"  and  for  Andre  as  well ;  but  it  is  surely  not  a  rare 
thing  for  men  to  ruin  themselves  through  vanity. 

3  The  Abbe  de  Villars,  who  died  in  1691,  was  a  son  of  the  Marquis  de 
Villars,  French  ambassador  to  the  Court  of  Spain,  and  is  said  to  have  been 
the  original  of  Narcissus. 

4  The  Convent  of  the  Feuillants,  a  branch  of  the  Cistercian  monks,  was  in 
the  Rue  Saint-Honore ;  that  of  the  Minims,  an  order  founded  by  St.  Francis 
of  Paula  in  1453,  was  near  the  Place  Royale. 

*  Ombre,  a  Spanish  game  of  cards,  often  mentioned  by  English  authors 
of  the  eighteenth  century  ;  Pope  has  a  poetical  description  of  it  in  his  "  Rape 
of  the  Lock."  Reversis  is  another  game  of  cards,  played  by  four  persons, 
and  in  which  those  who  make  the  fewest  tricks  win  the  game. 


OF   THE   TOWN.  I  73 

Aricia's,  where  every  night  he  ventures  his  five  or  six 
golden  pistoles  ;  ^  he  never  misses  reading  the  Gazette 
de  Hollande  or  the  Mercure  Galant  ;'^  he  has  read 
Bergerac,^  Desmarets,*  Lesclache,^  Barbin's^  stories, 
and  some  collections  of  poetry ;  he  walks  with  the 
ladies  on  the  Plaine  or  the  Cours/  and  is  scrupulously 
punctual  in  his  visits  ;  he  will  do  to-morrow  precisely 
what  he  has  done  to-day  and  did  yesterday ;  thus  he 
lives,  and  thus  he  will  die. 

(13.)  "  I  have  seen  this  man  somewhere,"  you'll  say,^ 
"  and,  though  his  face  is  familiar  to  me,  I  have  for- 
gotten where  it  was."  It  is  familiar  to  many  other 
people,  and,  if  possible,  I  will  assist  your  memory. 
Was  it  on  the  Boulevard,^  in  a  carriage,  or  in  the  large 
alley  of  the  Tuileries,  or  else  in  the  dress-circle  at  the 
theatre  ?  Was  it  at  church,  at  a  ball,  or  at  Ram- 
bouillet ;  ^^  or,  rather,  can  you  tell  me  where  you  have 

1  A  golden  pistole  was  usually  worth  eleven  livres. 

3  The  Gazette  de  Hollande  was  a  newspaper  published  in  Holland,  and 
in  which  everything  was  put  that  could  not  be  printed  or  said  in  France. 
For  the  Mercure  Galant,  see  page  24,  note  2. 

*  Cyrano  de  Bergerac  (1620-1655)  was  the  author  of  the  Histoires 
Comiques  des  Etats  et  Empires  de  la  Lune,  etc.,  of  a  tragedy.  Agrippine, 
and  of  a  comedy,  Le  Pedant  Joui,  from  which  Mollere  borrowed  two 
scenes. 

*  Desmarets  de  Saint-Sorlin  (1596-1676),  an  author  of  various  plays, 
novels,  and  poems,  and  one  of  the  first  in  France  to  attack  the  authority  of 
the  ancients. 

*  Louis  de  Lesclache  (1620-1661),  a  grammarian  and  a  writer  on  philo- 
sophy. 

6  Barbin,  a  well-known  publisher  at  the  time  our  author  wrote. 

7  The  Plame  was  probably  the  Plaine  des  Sablons  ;  for  the  Cours,  see 
page  164,  note  2. 

H  The  "  Keys"  are  unanimous  in  saying  that  the  Prince  of  Mecklenburg- 
Schwerin,  who  had  married  a  sister  of  the  Marechul  de  Luxembourg,  and 
who  died  at  the  Hague  in  1692,  is  m-ant  by  "  this  m:in." 

9  This  was  the  boulevard  of  the  Porte  Saint-Antoiiie,  sometimes  called 
the  Nouveau  Cours,  on  the  road  to  Vincennes. 

10  A  large  garden  in  the  Faubourg  Saint-Antbine  was  called  thus,  after  a 
financier  of  the  same  name  who  had  laid  it  out. 


174  OF   THE   TOWN. 

not  seen  him,  and  where  he  is  not  to  be  met  with  ?  If 
some  well-known  criminal  is  going  to  be  executed,  or  if 
there  are  any  fireworks,  he  makes  his  appearance  at  a 
window  at  the  town-hall ;  if  some  one  enters  the  town  in 
state,  you  see  him  in  the  reserved  seats  ;  if  a  carousel  ^ 
is  ridden,  he  enters  and  takes  his  place  on  some  bench ; 
if  the  king  gives  an  audience  to  an  ambassador,  he  sees 
the  whole  procession,  is  present  at  the  reception,  and 
thrusts  himself  in  the  ranks  when  it  returns.  His  presence 
is  as  essential  at  the  solemn  renewal  of  the  alliance  be- 
tween the  Swiss  Cantons  as  that  of  the  Lord  Chancellor  or 
the  Helvetian  plenipotentiaries.^  You  see  his  face  on  the 
almanacks  amongst  the  people  or  the  bystanders ;  ^  if 
there  is  a  public  hunt  going  on  or  a  Saint  Hubert,^  he 
will  be  present  on  horseback  ;  they  say  to  him  that  a 
camp  is  going  to  be  pitched  or  that  a  review  is  going  to  be 
held,  and  off  he  will  start  for  Houilles  or  Ach^res  ;  ^  he  is 
very  fond  of  the  army,  the  militia,  and  war,  of  which  he 
has  seen  a  good  deal,  even  the  taking  of  Fort  Bernardi.^ 
Chamlay  knows  something  of  marches,  Jacquier  of  the 
commissariate,  du  Metz  of  the  artillery,"  but  our  gentle- 
man is  a  looker-on,  has  grown  old  in  the  service  of  look- 

1  A  sort  of  mock  tilting-match  on  horseback. 

2  The  alliance  between  France  and  Switzerland  was  always  solemnly 
sworn,  and  this  was  done  for  the  last  time  in  1663  in  Notre- Dame. 

3  Every  year  under  Louis  XIV. 's  reign  there  were  published  large 
engravings,  in  which  the  king,  the  princes,  and  the  principal  persons  of  the 
court  were  represented,  whilst  lower  down  the  citizens,  the  people,  etc,  were 
looking  on,  and  the  real  almanack  was  pasted  quite  at  the  bottom. 

■*  Saint  Hubert  was  the  patron  saint  of  the  chase,  and  on  the  5th  of 
November,  when  his  festival  was  held,  the  king  and  the  greatest  personages 
of  the  court  hunted  at  Versailles. 

*  Two  small  places  near  Versailles  where  often  soldiers  encamped  and 
reviews  were  held. 

6  Bernardi  was  the  director  of  a  celebrated  gymnasium  at  that  time,  and 
every  year  his  pupils  attacked  and  defended  an  artificial  fort,  erected  by 
his  orders. 

?  The  Marquis  de  Chamlay  was  a  noted  tactician  ;  Jacquier  had  been  the 


OF   THE   TOWN.  1 75 

ing-on,  and  is  a  spectator  by  profession  ;  he  does  not 
do  anything  that  a  man  ought  to  do,  and  he  does  not 
know  anything  that  a  man  ought  to  know ;  but  he 
boasts  that  he  has  seen  everything  that  was  to  be 
seen,  and  now  does  not  regret  to  die.  But  what  a 
loss  will  his  death  be  for  the  whole  town !  Who  will 
inform  us,  as  he  did,  that  the  Cours  is  closed,  and  no- 
body is  walking  there,  that  the  pond  of  Vincennes  has 
been  filled  up  and  is  now  a  raised  moat,  and  that  no 
carriage  will  any  more  be  upset  on  that  spot  ?  Who 
will  acquaint  us  when  there  is  a  concert,  a  choral  service 
in  church,  or  something  wonderful  to  be  seen  at  the 
fair  ?  Who  will  let  us  know  that  Beaumavielle  ^  died 
yesterday,  and  that  Rochois  2  has  got  a  cold  and  will  not 
be  able  to  sing  for  a  week  ?  Who  will  inform  us  that 
Scapin  bears  the  "  fleur  de  lis  "  on  his  arms,  and  who 
is  very  glad  he  does  so  ?  Who  will  pronounce,  with  the 
most  boastful  emphasis,  the  name  of  a  mere  citizen's  wife, 
or  who  will  be  better  provided  with  topical  songs  ? 
Who  will  lend  to  the  ladies  the  Annales  Galantes  and 
the  yournal  Amoureux  ?  ^  Who  will  sing  at  table  a 
whole  dialogue  of  an  opera,  or  the  madness  of  "  Ro- 
land "  *  in  a  ruelle,  as  well  as,  he  does  ?  ^  To  conclude, 
since  there  are   in   the  city  and  elsewhere  some  very 

head  of  the  commissariate,  and  died  in  1684  ;  and  Berbier  du  Metz,  lieu- 
tenant-general of  the  artillery,  was  killed  at  the  battle  of  Fleurus  in  1690. 

^  Beaumavielle,  a  celebrated  basso-singer  at  the  opera,  died  about 
1688. 

2  Marthe  de  Rochois  sang  at  the  opera  from  1678  till  1697. 

3  The  Annales  Galantes  were  published  in  1670,  and  written  by  Madame 
de  Villedieu  ;  no  Journal  Amoureux  ever  saw  the  light. 

•*  Roland,  an  opera  by  Quinault  (see  page  28,  note  2)  and  Lulli  (see  page 
25,  note  1,  and  page  46,  note),  was  represented  for  the  first  time  at  Veisailles 
in  the  beginning  of  1685,  and  Mademoiselle  de  Rochois  played  the  part  of 
Angelica  in  it.  < 

5  See  page  65,  not    i. 


176  OF   THE    TOWN. 

foolish  people  as  well  as  some  dull  and  idle  people,  who 
have  nothing  to  do,  who  will  so  exactly  suit  every  one 
of  them  as  he  did  ? 

(14.)  Theramenes  1  was  rich  and  had  some  merit; 
some  property  was  left  him,  and  therefore  he  is  now 
much  wealthier  and  has  a  great  deal  more  merit ;  all 
the  women  set  to  work  to  make  him  their  gallant,  and 
all  the  young  girls  to  get  him  for  a  husband  ;  he  goes 
from  house  to  house,  to  make  the  mothers  believe  that 
he  is  inclined  to  marry.  As  soon  as  he  has  taken  his 
seat  they  withdraw,  to  leave  full  liberty  to  their  daughters 
to  be  amiable  and  to  Theramenes  to  declare  his  inten- 
tions. Here  he  is  the  rival  of  a  magistrate  ;  ^  there 
he  throws  into  the  shade  a  military  man  or  a  nobleman. 
The  ladies  could  not  covet  more  passionately  any  rosy- 
cheeked,  gay,  brisk,  witty  young  fellow,  nor  could  he  be 
better  received  ;  they  snatch  him  out  of  one  another's 
hands,  and  can  hardly  find  leisure  to  vouchsafe  a  smile  to 
any  other  person  who  visits  them  at  the  same  time.  How 
many  gallants  is  he  going  to  defeat  !  how  many  good 
matches  will  be  broken  off  on  his  account !  Will  he 
bestow  his  hand  on  the  large  number  of  heiresses  who 
court  him  ?  He  is  not  only  the  terror  of  husbands,  but 
the  dread  of  all  these  who  wish  to  be  so,  and  to  whom 
marriage  is  the  only  resource  for  obtaining  a  sufficient 
f  sum  to  replace  the  money  they  paid  for  their  official 
I  situations.^  A  man  so  happy  and  so  wealthy  *  ought 
to  be  banished  from  a  well-governed  city,  and  the  fair 
sex  should  be  forbidden,  under  pain  of  being  considered 

1  M.  de  Terrat,  the  chancelier  of  Monsieur,  the  brother  of  Louis  XIV.,  is 
hinted  at  here,  probably  merely  on  account  of  his  name. 

2  Le  luonier,  in  the  original.     See  page  168,  note  3 

3  La  Bruyere  employs  le  vide  cie  la  consignation.     See  page  169,  note  2. 
*  Pecunieux  our  author  uses  in  its  Latin  meaning. 


OF  THE  TOWN.  I  77 

insane  or  degraded,  to  treat  him  better  than  if  he  were 
merely  a  person  of  merit, 

(15.)  The  people  in  Paris  commonly  ape  the  court, 
but  they  do  not  always  know  how  to  imitate  it ;  they  by 
no  means  resemble  it  in  those  agreeable  and  flattering 
outward  civilities  with  which  some  courtiers,  and  par- 
ticularly the  ladies,  affably  treat  a  man  of  merit,  who 
possesses  nothing  but  merit.  Such  ladies  never  inquire 
after  that  man's  means  or  his  ancestors  ;  they  find  him 
at  court,  and  that  is  sufficient  for  them  ;  they  give  them- 
selves no  airs,  they  esteem  him,  and  do  not  ask  whether 
he  came  in  a  carriage  or  on  foot,  or  whether  he  has  a 
post,  an  estate,  or  followers ;  as  they  are  satiated  with 
pomp,  splendour,  and  honour,  they  like  to  recreate  them- 
selves with  philosophy  or  virtue.  If  a  city  lady  hears 
the  rattling  of  a  carriage  stopping  at  her  door,  she  is 
anxious  to  be  acquainted  with  any  person  who  is  in  it, 
and  to  be  polite  to  him,  without  at  all  knowing  him  ; 
but  from  her  window  she  has  caught  a  glance  of  a  set 
of  fine  horses,  a  good  many  liveries,  is  dazzled  by  the 
numerous  rows  of  finely  gilt  nails,i  and  is  very  impatient 
to  behold  such  a  military  man  or  a  magistrate  in  her 
apartments.  How  well  will  he  be  received  !  She'll  never 
take  her  eyes  off  him.  Nothing  is  lost  upon  her,  and 
she  has  already  given  him  credit  for  the  double  braces 
and  springs  of  his  carriage,  which  make  it  go  easier, 
and  she  esteems  him  the  more  and  loves  him  the  better 
for  them. 

(16.)  The  infatuation  of  some  city  women  in  their 
wretched  imitation  of  those  at  court  is  more  offensive 
than  the  coarseness  of  the  women  of  the  people  and  the 

1  Gilt  nails  were  the  principaf  ornaments  of  the  heavy  and  unwieldy 
coaches  of  the  age  of  Louis  XIV. 

M 


178  OF   THE  TOWN. 

rusticity  of  country-women,  since  it  is  a  mixture  of  both, 
and  of  affectation  as  well. 

(17.)  What  a  cunning  contrivance  to  give  during 
courtship  valuable  presents  which  cost  nothing,  and 
which  after  marriage  have  to  be  returned  in  kind  !  ^ 

(18.)  It  is  sensible  and  praiseworthy  in  a  man  to 
spend  on  his  nuptials  one-third  of  his  wife's  dowry ;  to 
begin  with  deliberately  impoverishing  himself  by  buying 
and  collecting  superfluous  things  ;  and  already  to  take 
from  his  capital  in  order  to  pay  Gaultier,^  the  cabinet- 
maker, and  the  milliner  ! 

(19.)  Truly  it  is  a  charming  and  judicious  custom 
which,  in  defiance  of  modesty  and  decency,  and  through 
some  kind  of  shamelessness,  compels  a  newly-married 
bride  to  lie  on  her  bed  for  show,  and  to  render  herself 
ridiculous  for  some  days,  by  exposing  her  to  the  curi- 
osity of  a  few  men  and  women  whom  she  may  know, 
or  who  may  be  strangers  to  her,  and  who  hasten  from 
all  quarters  of  the  town  to  look  on  such  a  sight  as  long 
as  it  lasts.3  There  is  nothing  wanting  to  make  this 
custom  seem  very  absurd  and  incomprehensible,  except 
to  see  it  mentioned  in  print  in  some  book  of  travels  in 
Mingrelia. 

(20.)  What  a  painful  habit  and  what  a  troublesome 
kind  of  obligation  it  must  be  for  certain  persons  to  be 
continually  anxious  of  meeting  one  another,  yet  when 

1  Some  unprincipled  suitors  borrowed  costly  jewels  which  they  put  in  the 
trousseau  of  their  brides,  but  which  had  to  be  returned  after  the  marriage. 

2  Gaultier  was  the  proprietor  of  a  well-known  warehouse  for  the  sale  of 
silks  and  gold  and  silver-embroidered  stuffs  in  the  Rue  des  Bourdonnais, 
in  Paris,  during  the  latter  part  of  the  seventeenth  century. 

3  According  to  an  immemorial  custom  in  Paris,  a  young  wife  showily 
i  dressed  had  to  sit  up  on  her  bed  during  the  first  three  days  after  marriage 
I  to  receive  visits.  Several  memoirs  and  letters  of  the  time  refer  to  it.  Ad- 
i'  dison  in  "The  Spectator,"  No.  45,  speaks  also  of  the  "English  ladies  .  .  . 

1  \)rought  up  the  fashion  of  receiving  visits  in  their  beds." 


OF  THE  TOWN.  179 

they  meet  to  have  nothing  but  trifles  to  say  to  one 
another,  and  to  communicate  reciprocally  things  which 
were  previously  known  to  both,  and  of  no  matter  of 
importance  to  either ;  to  enter  a  room  merely  to  leave 
it  again  ;  to  go  out  after  dinner,^  only  to  come  home  in 
the  evening,  highly  satisfied  with  seeing  in  five  hours 
three  Swiss,^  a  woman  they  hardly  knew,  and  another 
they  scarcely  liked.  Whoever  will  rightly  consider  the 
value  of  time,  and  how  irreparable  its  loss  is,  must 
lament  bitterly  such  wretched  trifling. ^ 

(21.)  In  town,  people  are  brought  up  in  complete 
ignorance  of  rural  and  country  affairs  ;  they  can 
scarcely  distinguish  flax  from  hemp,  wheat  from  rye, 
and  neither  of  them  from  meslin ;  they  are  satisfied 
with  eating,  drinking,  and  dressing.  Do  not  mention  to 
a  large  number  of  townsfolk  such  words  as  fallow- 
land,  staddles,  layers,  or  after-grass,  if  you  wish  to  be 
understood,  for  they  will  not  think  it  is  their  mother- 
tongue.  Speak  to  some  of  them  of  measures,  tariffs, 
taxes,*  and  to  others  of  appeals,  petitions,  decrees,  and 
injunctions  ;  for  they  know  the  world,  and  above  all,  what 
is  ugly  and  vulgar  in  it ;  but  they  do  not  know  Nature, 
its  beginning,  growth,  gifts,  and  bounteousness.  Their 
ignorance  often  is  voluntary,  and  based  on  the  conceit 
they  have  of  their  own  callings  and  talents.  There  is 
not   a   low  pettifogger   in    his   dark    and  grimy  room, 

1  People  were  then  (1688-1694)  in  the  habit  of  dining  at  twelve  o'clock, 
and  of  taking  supper  at  seven  or  eight ;  hence  the  reference  to  the  "  five 
hours." 

2  We  do  not  know  if  this  refers  to  Swiss  porters  or  Swiss  guards  ;  I  should 
think  it  meant  the  former,  and  intends  to  point  out  that  the  lady  made 
three  calls.     (See  also  page  134,  note  4.) 

3  This  paragraph  alludes,  of  course,  to  the  visits  ladies  par  one  another. 

4  Sou  pour  livre,  or  a  penny  in  the  pound,  in  the  original,  was  a  tax  on 
merchandise  of  a  twentieth  part  of  their  value. 


I  So  OK    THE   TOWN. 

his  brain  teeming  with  the  most  wicked  legal  quibbles, 
who  does  not  prefer  himself  to  a  husbandman,  who, 
blest  of  Heaven,  cultivates  the  land,  sows  when  it  is 
needed,  and  gathers  a  rich  harvest ;  and  if  at  any  time 
the  former  hears  mention  made  of  the  first  men  or  the 
patriarchs,  their  rural  lives  and  their  husbandry,  he 
wonders  how  people  could  have  been  living  in  those 
days  without  lawyers,  commissioners,  presidents,  or 
solicitors,  and  cannot  understand  how  they  could  ever 
have  done  without  roUs-ofifices,  courts  of  judicature,  and 
refreshment-rooms. 

(22.)  When  the  Roman  emperors  were  making  their 
triumphal  entries,  they  never  protected  themselves  in  a 
more  effeminate,  easy,  and  efficacious  manner  against 
the  wind,  the  rain,  the  dust,  and  the  sun,  than  the  citi- 
zens of  Paris  do  when  they  are  driven  from  one  end  of 
the  town  to  another.  What  a  difference  between  their 
habits  and  the  mules  on  which  their  forefathers  rode  ! 
The  latter  did  not  know  how  to  deprive  themselves  of 
the  necessaries  of  life  to  get  superfluities,  nor  to  prefer 
show  to  substance;  their  houses  were  never  illuminated 
with  wax-candles,  and  they  never  warmed  themselves 
by  a  little  fire,  for  in  their  time  such  candles  were  only 
used  at  the  altar  and  in  the  Louvre ;  ^  they  never  ate  a 
bad  dinner  in  order  to  keep  a  carriage  ;  they  were  con- 
vinced that  men  had  legs  given  them  to  walk,  and  they 
did  walk.  In  dry  weather  they  kept  themselves  clean;  in 
wet  they  did  not  mind  to  dirty  their  shoes  and  stockings, 
and  to  cross  a  street  or  passage  with  the  same  alacrity 
as  a  sportsman  rides  over  ploughed  fields,  or  a  soldier 

1  Wax-candles  were  a  luxury  at  the  time  La  Bruyere  wrote,  and  chiefly 
manufactured  at  Bougiah,  on  the  coast  of  Africa ;  hence  their  name, 
bougie. 


OF    THE    TOWN.  l8l 

gets  wet  in  the  trenches.  They  had  not  then  in- 
vented the  harnessing  of  two  men  to  carry  them  in  a 
Sedan  chair  ;  then  several  magistrates  walked  to  the 
two  courts,^  and  with  as  good  a  grace  as  Augustus 
formerly  went  on  foot  to  the  Capitol.  Pewter  in  those 
days  shone  on  the  tables  and  the  sideboards,  brass 
and  iron  in  the  chimneys,  whilst  silver  and  gold  lay 
safe  in  coffers.  Women  were  then  waited  on  by 
women,  and  there  were  even  women  in  the  kitchen. 
Such  fine  names  as  "  governor  "  and  "governess  "  were 
not  unknown  to  our  forefathers,  for  they  knew  to  whom 
the  children  of  kings  and  of  great  princes  were  in- 
trusted ;  2  but  their  children  had  the  same  servants  they 
had,  and  they  themselves  were  satisfied  to  superintend 
their  education.  Everything  they  did  was  calqulated  ; 
their  expenses  were  in  proportion  to  their  means  ; 
their  liveries,  their  carriages,  their  furniture,  their 
household  expenses,  their  town  and  country  houses 
were  all  in  accordance  with  their  incomes  and  their 
station  in  life.  Outward  distinctions  existed,  however, 
amongst  them,  so  that  it  was  impossible  to  mistake  the 
wife  of  an  attorney  for  the  wife  of  a  judge,  and  a 
commoner  or  a  mere  servant  for  a  nobleman.  Less 
desirous  to  spend  or  enlarge  their  patrimony  than  to 
keep  it,  they  left  it  entire  to  their  heirs,  led  a  tranquil 
life,  and  died  a  peaceful  death  ;  then,  there  was  no 
complaint  of  hard  times,  of  excessive  misery,  of  scarcity 
of  money  ;  they  had  less  than  we  have,  and  yet  they 

1  In  every  parliament  there  were  originally  two  courts,  and  two  kinds  of 
barristers  or  conseillers ;  one  court  was  called  the  grantC  chambre,  where 
the  cases  were  heard  ;  in  the  other  court,  the  chambre  des  enqueies,  reports 
in  writing  were  made  of  all  cases. 

2  The  nobleman  or  lady  of  high  rank  to  whom  the  education  of  the  chil- 
dren of  royalty  was  intrusted  in  France  bore  the  title  oi  goui'emeur,  or 
gouvemnnte  des  tii/ants  de  France. 


l82  OF    THE    TOWN. 

had  enough,  richer  through  their  economy  and  their 
moderation  than  through  their  incomes  or  estates.  To 
conclude,  in  former  days  people  observed  this  maxim, 
that  what  is  splendour,  pomp,  and  magnificence  in 
nobles  of  high  rank,  is  extravagance,  folly,  and  stu- 
pidity in  private  gentlemen.^ 

1  Voltaire  attacked  this  paragraph,  and  maintained  it  was  ridiculous  to 
praise  our  forefathers  for  being  calculating,  slow,  coarse,  and  not  very 
cleanly.  Moreover,  money  should  not  be  stowed  away  in  coffers,  but  circu- 
late. One  of  the  latest  commentators  of  La  Bruyere,  M.  De'stailleur,  ob- 
serves rightly  that  our  author  only  praises  economy,  simplicity,  and  mode- 
ration, and  not  avarice  and  uncleanliness,  and  that  he  merely  attacks  the 
pretended  showiness  of  men  wishing  to  imitate  people  of  high  rank  ;  hence 
the  last  sentence. 


IX. 


OF  THE  COURT. 


(i.)  'X'HE  most    honourable  thing  we  can  say  of  a 
man  is,  that  he  does  not  understand  the  court ; 
there  is  scarcely  a  virtue  which  we  do  not  imply  when 
saying  this.i 

(2.)  A  perfect  courtier  can  command  his  gestures,  his 
eyes,  and  his  countenance  ;  he  is  profound  and  impene- 
trable ;  he  seems  to  overlook  every  injury  ;  he  smiles  on 


1  Not  alone  La  Bruyere,  but  many  of  the  most  eminent  persons  of  his 
time,  such  as  Saint-Simon,  Bourdaloue,  Fenelon,  Massillon,  Madame  de 
Maintenon,  the  Duke  of  Orleans  and  his  mother,  had  the  same  opinion  of 
the  court  and  courtiers. 


184  OF  THE   COURT. 

his  enemies,  controls  his  temper,  disguises  his  passions, 
belies  his  inclinations,  and  both  speaks  and  acts  against 
his  opinions.  Such  a  quintessence  of  refinement  is 
usually  called  "  falsehood,'^  and  is,  after  all,  sometimes 
of  no  more  use  to  a  courtier's  success  than  frankness, 
sincerity,  and  virtue. 

(3.)  A  court  is  like  certain  changeable  colours,  which 
vary  according  to  the  different  lights  they  are  exposed 
in.  He  who  can  define  these  colours  can  define  the 
court, 

(4.)  A  man  who  leaves  the  court  for  a  single  moment 
renounces  it  for  ever ;  the  courtier  who  was  there  in  the 
morning  must  be  there  at  night,  and  know  it  again  next 
day,  in  order  that  he  himself  may  be  known  there. 

(5.)  A  man  must  appear  small  at  court,  and  let  him 
be  never  so  vain,  it  is  impossible  to  prevent  it ;  but  it  is 
the  common  lot,  and  the  highest  nobles  themselves  are 
there  of  no  consequence. 

(6.)  People  who  live  in  the  provinces  consider  the  court 
admirable  ;  but  if  they  visit  it,  its  beauties  diminish,  like 
those  of  a  fine  drawing  of  perspective  viewed  too  closely. 

(7.)  It  is  difficult  to  get  accustomed  to  the  spending  of 
our  lives  in  ante-chambers,  courtyards,  or  on  staircases. 

(8.)  The  court  does  not  satisfy  a  man,  but  it  prevents 
him  from  being  satisfied  with  anything  else. 

(9.)  A  cultured  gentleman  should  have  some  experi- 
ence of  the  court ;  as  soon  as  he  enters  it  he  will  discover 
a  new  world,  as  it  were,  wholly  unknown  to  him,  where 
vice  and  politeness  have  equal  sway,  and  where  good 
and  evil  alike  may  be  of  use  to  him. 

(10.)  The  court  is  like  a  marble  structure,  for  the 
courtiers  are  very  polished  and  very  hard. 


OF   THE   COURT.  1 85 

(11.)  Sometimes  people  go  to  court  only  to  come 
back  again,  so  that,  on  their  return,  they  may  be  taken 
notice  of  by  the  nobility  of  their  county  or  by  the  bishops 
of  their  diocese. 

(12.)  There  would  be  no  use  for  embroiderers  and 
confectioners,  and  they  would  open  their  shops  in  vain, 
if  all  the  people  were  modest  and  temperate  ;  courts 
would  be  deserts  and  kings  almost  left  alone,  if  every  one 
was  void  of  vanity  and  self-interest.  Men  are  willing  to 
be  slaves  in  one  place  if  they  can  only  lord  it  in  another. 
It  seems  that  at  court  a  proud,  imperious,  and  command- 
ing mien  is  delivered  wholesale  to  the  great  for  them  to 
retail  in  the  country  ;  they  do  exactly  what  is  done  unto 
them,  and  are  the  true  apes  of  royalty. 

(13.)  Nothing  disparages  some  courtiers  so  much  as 
the  presence  of  a  prince  ;  their  faces  are  scarcely  to  be 
recognised  ;  their  features  are  altered  and  their  looks  de- 
based ;  the  more  proud  and  haughty  they  are,  the  greater 
is  the  change  in  them,  because  they  have  suffered  a 
greater  loss  ;  whilst  a  gentlemanly  and  modest  man  bears 
it  much  better,  as  there  is  nothing  in  him  to  alter. 

(14.)  Courtly  manners  are  contagious;  they  are  caught 
at  Versailles,^  as  the  Norman  accent  is  at  Rouen  and 
Falaise  ;  we  partly  find  them  amongst  quartermasters, 
superintendents,  and  confectioners  ;  ■^  a  man  with  no 
very  great  intellect  may  become  proficient  in  them ;  one 

1  It  was  only  in  the  sixth  edition  of  the  "  Characters"  that  our  author 
printed  Versailles  in  full  ;  until  then  it  was  only  "  V  .  .  ." 

2  The  French  has  fourriers,  petits  contrdleurs,  and  chefs  de  fniiterie. 
The  first  looked  after  the  lodgings  of  the  persons  following  the  court  when  the 
king  was  travelling  ;  the  second  superintended  the  expenses  of  the  king's 
tabic  and  household  ;  and  the  third  set  out  the  dessert  and  provided  the  wax- 
candles  for  the  king's  dining-room.  K  fourrier  is  still  a  non-commissioned 
officer  in  the  French  army  who  has  charge  of  the  quarters  and  provisions  of 
the  men. 


1 86  OF   THE   COURT. 

with  a  lofty  genius  and  of  solid  worth  does  not  sufficiently 
value  such  accomplishments  to  make  it  his  principal 
business  ^  to  study  and  acquire  them  ;  he  contracts  them 
imperceptibly,  and  does  not  trouble  himself  to  get  rid 
of  them. 

(15.)  N  ...  ,2  in  a  great  flutter,  comes  up  to  the 
king's  chamber,  turns  everybody  aside,  and  clears  the 
way ;  he  scratches  at  the  door,  nay,  almost  raps ;  he 
gives  his  name,  and  the  people  around  him  recover  now 
their  breath  ;  after  some  time  he  is  admitted,  but  it  is 
with  the  crowd.^ 

(16.)  Courts  are  haunted  by  certain  bold  adventurers, 
of  free-and-easy  manners,  who  introduce  themselves, 
pretend  to  possess  greater  abilities  than  others  in  their 
profession,  and  are  believed  on  their  sole  assertion.'*  In 
the  meanwhile  they  take  advantage  of  this  general  belief, 
or  of  the  fondness  of  some  men  for  novelty  ;  they  make 
their  way  through  the  crowd,  and  reach  the  ear  of  the 
prince,  with  whom  the  courtier  sees  them  talking,  whilst 
he  thinks  himself  happy  if  he  only  obtains  a  glance.  It 
is  not  difficult  for  great  people  to  get  rid  of  them,  for  as 


1  Faire  son  capital,  in  the  original,  a  phrase  much  in  vogue  during  the 
sixteenth  and  seventeenth  centuries.. 

2  This  paragraph  is  said  to  apply  to  a  certain  M.  de  Barete,  unknown  to 
fame,  or  to  the  brother  of  Madame  de  Maintenon.     (See  page  65,  note  4.) 

3  It  was  not  considered  etiquette  to  knock  or  to  rap  at  the  door  of  the 
king's  chamber,  or  at  the  door  of  any  nobleman's  room  ;  but  a  person 
asking  to  be  admitted  simply  scratched  the  door  with  his  nails,  whilst  the 
fashionables  used  their  combs,  which  they  always  carried  about  with  them 
to  comb  their  long  wigs.  Only  the  princes,  the  grand  officers  of  the  crown, 
and  some  favourite  nobles  were  admitted  to  the  grand  levee  of  Louis  XIV., 
then  officers  of  an  inferior  rank  and  a  certain  number  of  courtiers  were 
allowed  to  enter  the  room  ;  the  crowd  were  not  admitted,  but  had  to  wait 
till  the  king  left  the  room,  and  then  stood  aside. 

*  This  is  said  to  be  an  allusion  to  a  certain  Italian  quack,  Caretto  or 
Caretti,  then  the  fashion,  who  is  mentioned  by  Saint-Simon  in  his  Mentoires 
and  by  Madame  de  Sevign^  in  her  Letters. 


OF   THE   COURT.  187 

they  are  only  admitted  on  sufferance,  and  are  of  no 
consequence,  their  dismissal  is  of  no  importance  :  then 
they  disappear,  at  once  rich  and  out  of  favour  ;  and  the 
very  men  who  so  lately  were  deceived  by  them  are  ready 
to  be  deceived  by  others. 

(17.)  Some  men,  on  entering  a  room,  make  but  a 
slight  bow,  stretch  their  shoulders  and  thrust  out  their 
chests  like  women  ;  they  ask  you  a  question,  look  an- 
other way,  and  speak  in  a  loud  tone,  to  show  that  they 
think  themselves  above  every  one  present ;  they  stop, 
and  everybody  gathers  around  them ;  they  do  all  the 
talking,  and  seem  to  take  the  lead.  This  ridiculous  and 
simulated  haughtiness  continues  until  some  really  great 
person  makes  his  appearance,  when  they  shrink  away 
at  once,  and  are  reduced  to  their  natural  level,  for  which 
they  are  all  the  better. 

(18.)  Courts  cannot  exist  without  a  class  of  courtiers 
who  can  flatter,  are  complaisant,  insinuating,  devoted  to 
the  ladies,  whose  pleasures  they  direct,  whose  weak- 
nesses they  study,  and  whose  passions  they  flatter  ;  they 
whisper  some  naughty  words  to  them,  speak  of  their 
husbands  and  lovers  in  a  proper  manner,  conjecture 
when  they  are  sad,  ill,  or  expect  a  baby ;  they  head  the 
fashions,  refine  on  luxury  and  extravagance,  and  teach 
the  fair  to  spend  in  a  short  time  large  sums  on  clothes, 
furniture,  and  carriages  ;  they  wear  nothing  themselves 
but  what  shows  good  taste  and  riches,  and  will  not  live 
in  an  old  palace  till  it  be  repaired  and  embellished  ;  they 
eat  delicately  and  thoughtfully ;  there  is  no  pleasure  they 
have  not  tried  and  of  which  they  cannot  tell  you  some- 
thing ;  they  owe  their  position  to  themselves,  and  they 
keep  it  with  the  same  ability  they  made  it.  Disdainful 
and  proud,  they  no  longer  accost  their  former  equals, 


l88  OF   THE   COURT. 

and  scarcely  bow  to  them  ;  they  speak  when  every  one 
else  is  silent ;  enter,  and  at  inconvenient  hours  thrust 
themselves  into  places  where  men  of  the  highest  rank 
dare  not  intrude ;  and  when  such  men,  after  long  services, 
their  bodies  covered  with  wounds,  filling  great  posts  or 
occupying  high  official  positions,  do  not  look  so  confident, 
and  seem  embarrassed.  Princes  listen  to  what  these 
courtiers  have  to  say,  who  share  all  their  pleasures 
and  entertainments,  and  never  stir  out  of  the  Louvre 
or  the  Castle,^  where  they  behave  themselves  as  if 
quite  at  home  and  in  their  own  house ;  they  seem  to 
be  in  a  thousand  different  places  at  one  and  the  same 
time  ;  their  countenances  are  sure  always  to  attract  the 
notice  of  any  novice  at  court ;  they  embrace  and  are 
embraced,  they  laugh,  talk  loud,  are  funny,  tell  stories, 
and  are  of  an  easy  disposition  ;  they  are  agreeable,  rich, 
lend  money,  but,  after  all,  are  of  no  importance.^ 

(19.)  Would  any  person  not  think  that  to  Cimon  and 
Clitandre  alone  are  intrusted  all  the  details  of  the  State, 
and  that  they  alone  are  answerable  for  them  ?  The  one 
manages  at  least  everything  concerning  agriculture  and 
land,  and  the  other  is  at  the  head  of  the  navy.  Who- 
ever will  give  a  sketch  of  them  must  express  bustle, 
restlessness,  curiosity,  activity,  and  paint  Hurry  itself. 
We  never  see   them  sitting,  standing,  or  stopping ;  no 


1  By  the  Castle  is  meant  Versailles. 

2  This  seems  a  more  correct  portrait  of  M.  de  Langlee  than  the  one  to 
be  found  in  the  chapter  "  Of  ihe  Gifts  of  Fortune,"  §  21  (see  also  page  139, 
note  6).  Saint-Simon,  in  hh  Memozres,  often  mentions  him  and  his  mother, 
who  was  the  queen's  chamber-maid,  and  through  her  influence  at  court  got 
him  introduced  amongst  the  highest  of  the  land.  He  also  speaks  of  de 
Langlee's  successes  at  play,  his  intimacy  with  the  king,  and  the  king's 
mistresses,  favourites,  and  family,  his  want  of  intelligence,  and  his  great  tact, 
except  in  continually  using  obscene  words,  and  finally  his  being  an  arbiter 
ele^antiarum.     Madame  de  S^vign^  also  refers  to  him  and  his  familiarity. 


OF   THE  COURT.  1 89 

one  has  ever  seen  them  walk;  for  they  are  always  running, 
and  they  speak  whilst  running,  and  do  not  wait  for  an 
answer  ;  they  never  come  from  any  place,  or  go  anywhere, 
but  are  always  passing  to  and  fro.  Stop  them  not  in 
their  hurried  course,  for  you  would  break  their  machinery ; 
do  not  ask  them  any  questions,  or,  if  you  do,  give  them 
at  least  time  to  breathe  and  to  remember  that  they  have 
nothing  to  do,  can  stay  with  you  long,  and  follow  you 
wherever  you  are  pleased  to  lead  them.  They  do  not, 
like  Jupiter's  satellites,^  crowd  round  and  encompass 
their  prince,  but  precede  him  and  give  notice  of  his 
coming :  they  rush  with  impetuosity  through  the  crowd 
of  courtiers,  and  all  who  stand  in  their  way  are  in  danger. 
Their  profession  is  to  be  seen  again  and  again,  and  they 
never  go  to  bed  without  having  acquitted  themselves  of 
such  an  important  duty,  so  beneficial  to  the  common- 
wealth. They  know,  besides,  all  the  circumstances  of 
every  petty  accident,  and  are  acquainted  with  anything 
at  court  people  wish  to  ignore  ;  they  possess  all  the 
qualifications  necessary  for  a  small  post.  Nevertheless 
they  are  eager  and  watchful  about  anything  they  think 
will  suit  them  as  well  as  slightly  enterprising,  thought- 
less, and  precipitate.  In  a  word,  they  both  carry  their 
heads  very  high,  and  are  harnessed  to  the  chariot  of 
Fortune,  but  are  never  likely  to  sit  in  it. 

(20.)  A  courtier  who  iias  not  a  pretty  name  ought 
to  hide  it   under  a  better  i^   but  if  it  is  one  that   he 


1  See  p.  IJ5,  note  4. 

2  Some  commentators  think  this  refers  to  the  Duke  de  Bouillon,  because 
his  name  means  also  "  beef-tea,"  and  because  he  wished  to  add  to  his 
family  name,  La  Tour,  that  of  d'Auvergne,  but  the  name  was  illustrious. 
A  modern  commentator,  M.  Hemardinquer,  rightly  thinks  it  might  apply  to 
the  ministers  of  Louis  XIV.,  who  all  were  descended  from  citizens,  and  took 
for  their  titles  Marquis  de  Louvois,  de  Seignelay,  de  Barbezieux,  Count  de 


190  OF  THE   COURT. 

dares  own,i  he  should  then  insinuate  that  his  name  is 
the  most  illustrious  of  all  names,  and  his  house  the 
most  ancient  of  all  others  ;  he  ought  to  be  descended 
from  the  princes  of  Lorraine,  the  Rohans,  the  Chatillons, 
the  Montmorencys,2  and,  if  possible,  from  princes  of  the 
blood  ;  he  ought  to  talk  of  nothing  but  dukes,  cardinals, 
and  ministers ;  to  introduce  his  paternal  and  maternal 
ancestors  in  all  conversations,  as  well  as  the  Oriflamme  ^ 
and  the  Crusades  ;  to  have  his  apartments  adorned  with 
genealogical  trees,  escutcheons  with  sixteen  quarters,  and 
portraits  of  his  ancestors  and  of  the  relatives  of  his 
ancestors ;  to  value  himself  on  his  having  an  old  castle 
with  turrets,  battlements,  and  portcullises  ;  to  be  always 
speaking  of  his  race,  his  branch,  his  name,  and  his 
arms  ;  to  say  of  a  man  that  he  is  not  a  man  of  rank,  of 
a  woman  that  she  is  not  of  noble  extraction  ;  ^  or  to 
ask  whether  Hyacinthus  is  a  nobleman  when  they  tell 
him  he  has  drawn  a  great  prize  in  the  lottery.^     If  some 

Maurepas,  de  Maillebois,  etc.,  all  of  which  titles  might  be  considered  "not 
pretty  "  as  names. 

1  This  points  to  M.  de  Clermont-Tonnerre,  bishop  of  Noyon,  who  always 
boasted  of  his  lineage,  and  thought  himself  a  wit  because  he  had  been 
elected  a  member  of  the  French  Academy  by  the  desire  of  the  king. 

2  By  the  princes  of  Lorraine  are  probably  meant  the  Guises,  whose 
family  name  was  de  Lorraine ;  they  were,  however,  princes  de  Jolnville. 
The  Rohans  were  one  of  the  oldest  families  in  Brittany  ;  the  Chatillons,  of 
whom  the  Admiral  de  Coligny  was  one,  were  related  to  the  Montmorencys, 
who  date  from  the  tenth  century,  and  had  been  chiefly  rendered  famou 
in  history  by  the  connetablc  de  Montmorency  (1492-1567),  the  rival  of  the 
Duke  de  Guise. 

3  The  Orijlajnme  was  the  banner  of  the  Abbey  of  Saint-Denis,  and  only 
brought  out  by  order  of  the  king  the  moment  the  battle  began. 

*  Demoiselle  was  originally  the  appellation  given  to  any  married  or 
unmarried  lady  of  noble  birth,  but  in  La  Bruyere's  time  it  was  generally 
applied  to  ladies  of  plebeian  origin.  In  several  legal  contracts  our  author's 
mother  is  called  demoiselle  veuve. 

*  There  was  no  public  lottery  in  France  before  the  year  1700,  but  the 
king  often  had  one  drawn,  and  not  seldom  gave  permission  to  hospitals  and 
other  public  institutions  also  to  have  them  drawn. 


OF  THE   COURT.  I91 

persons  laugh  at  such  absurd  remarks,  he  lets  them 
laugh  on ;  if  others  make  erroneous  comments,  they  are 
welcome ;  he  will  always  assert  that  he  takes  his  place 
after  the  royal  family,  and,  by  constantly  repeating  it, 
he  will  finally  be  believed. 

(21.)  It  shows  a  simple  mind  to  acknowledge  at  court 
the  smallest  alloy  of  common  blood,  and  not  to  set  up 
for  a  nobleman. 

(22.)  At  court  people  go  to  bed  and  rise  only  with 
a  view  to  self;  it  is  what  they  revolve  in  their  own 
minds  morning  and  evening,  night  and  day ;  it  is  for 
this  they  think,  speak,  are  silent  or  act ;  it  is  with  this 
disposition  that  they  converse  with  some  and  neglect 
others,  that  they  ascend  or  descend ;  by  this  rule  they 
measure  all  their  assiduity,  complaisance,  esteem,  in- 
difference, or  contempt.  Whatever  progress  any  of 
them  seems  to  make  towards  moderation  and  wisdom, 
they  are  carried  away  by  the  first  motive  of  ambition 
along  with  the  most  covetous,  the  most  violent  in  their 
desires,  and  the  most  ambitious.  Can  they  stand  still 
when  everything  is  in  motion,  when  everything  is  stir- 
ring, and  forbear  running  whither  every  one  runs  ? 
Such  people  even  think  they  only  owe  their  success  in  life 
to  themselves  ;  and  a  man  who  has  not  made  it  at  court 
is  supposed  not  to  have  deserved  it  ;  and  this  judgment 
is  without  appeal.  However,  is  it  advisable  for  a  man 
to  leave  the  court  without  having  obtained  any  advan- 
tage by  his  stay,  or  should  he  remain  there  without 
favour  or  reward .-'  This  question  is  so  intricate,  so 
delicate,  and  so  difficult  to  decide,  that  a  very  large 
number  of  courtiers  have  grown  old  without  coming  to 
any  affirmative  or  negative  conclusion,  and  died,  at  last, 
without  having  arrived  at  any  final  resolution. 


192  OF   THE   COURT. 

(23,)  There  is  nothing  at  court  so  worthless  and  so 
contemptible  as  a  man  who  cannot  assist  us  in  the 
least  to  better  our  position ;  I  am  amazed  such  a  person 
dares  appear  there. 

(24.)  A  man  who  sees  himself  raised  far  above  his 
contemporaries,  whose  rank  was  formerly  the  same  as 
his  own,  and  who  made  their  first  appearance  at  court 
at  the  same  time  as  he  did,  fancies  it  is  a  sure  proof  of 
his  superior  merit,  and  thinks  himself  better  than  those 
other  people  who  could  not  keep  up  with  him  ;  but  he 
forgets  what  he  thought  of  himself  before  he  became 
a  favourite,  and  what  he  thought  of  those  who  had 
outstripped  him. 

(25.)  It  proves  a  good  deal  for  a  friend,  after  he 
has  become  a  great  favourite  at  court,  still  to  keep  up  an 
acquaintance  with  us. 

(26.)  If  a  man  who  is  in  favour  dares  to  take  advan- 
tage of  it  before  it  is  all  over ;  if  he  makes  use  of  a 
propitious  gale  to  get  on ;  if  he  keeps  his  eye  on  any 
vacancies,  posts,  or  abbeys,  asks  for  them,  obtains  them, 
and  is  stocked  with  pensions,  grants,  and  reversions,^ 
people  will  blame  him  for  being  covetous  and  am- 
bitious, and  will  say  that  everything  tempts  him  and 
is  secured  by  him,  his  friends  and  his  creatures ;  and 
that  through  the  numberless  and  various  favours  be- 
stowed on  him,  he,  in  his  own  person,  has  monopolised 
several  fortunes.  But  what  should  he  have  done?  I 
judge  not  so  much  by  what  people  say,  as  by  what 
they  would  have  done  themselves  under  similar  circum- 
stances, and  that  is  precisely  what  he  has  done. 

1  The  king  usually  allowed  the  holders  of  certain  offices  to  appraint  their 
successors,  or  to  hold  such  posts  conjointly.  But  they  had  to  pay  heavily 
for  such  survivances,  as  they  were  called,  to  the  royal  tax-gatherers  and 
to  the  original  holders.    (See  also  page  130,  note.) 


OF  THE  COURT.  1 93 

We  blame  those  persons  who  make  use  of  their  oppor- 
tunities for  bettering  their  positions,  because  we  are  in  a 
very  inferior  situation,  and,  therefore,  despair  of  being 
ever  in  such  circumstances  that  will  expose  us  to  a  similar 
reproach.  But  if  we  were  likely  to  succeed  them,  we 
should  begin  to  think  they  were  not  so  much  in  the 
wrong  as  we  imagined,  and  would  be  more  cautious  in 
censuring  them,  for  fear  of  condemning  ourselves  before- 
hand. 

(27.)  We  should  not  exaggerate  things,  nor  blame 
the  court  for  evils  which  do  not  exist  there.  Courtiers 
never  endeavour  to  harm  real  merit,  but  they  leave  it 
sometimes  without  reward  ;  they  do  not  always  despise 
it  when  they  have  once  discerned  it,  but  they  forget  all 
about  it ;  for  a  court  is  a  place  where  people  most 
perfectly  understand  doing  nothing,  or  very  little,  for 
those  whom  they  greatly  esteem. 

(28.)  It  would  be  very  wonderful  indeed,  if  among 
all  the  instruments  I  employ  for  building  up  my  fortune, 
some  of  them  were  not  to  miscarry.  A  friend  of  mine 
who  promised  to  speak  for  me  does  not  say  a  single 
word  ;  another  speaks  without  any  spirit ;  a  third  speaks 
by  accident  against  my  interests,  though  it  was  not  his 
intention  to  do  so.  One  lacks  the  will,  another  sagacity 
and  prudence  ;  and  none  of  them  would  be  sufficiently 
delighted  in  seeing  me  happy,  and  do  everything  in  their 
power  for  making  me  so.  Every  one  remembers  well 
enough  what  pains  he  took  in  establishing  his  own 
position,  and  what  assistance  he  got  in  clearing  his  way 
to  obtain  it.  We  should  not  be  averse  to  acknowledge 
the  services  which  certain  people  have  rendered  us,  by 
rendering  to  others  some  service  on  similar  occasions, 

N 


194  OF   THE   COURT. 

if  our  chief  and  only  care  were  not  to  think  of  ourselves 
when  we  have  made  our  fortune. 

(29.)  Courtiers  never  employ  whatever  intelligence, 
skill,  or  perspicacity  they  may  possess  to  find  out 
means  of  obliging  those  of  their  friends  who  implore 
their  assistance,  but  they  only  invent  evasive  answers, 
plausible  excuses,  or  what  they  call  impossibilities  for 
moving  in  the  matter  ;  and  then  they  think  they  have 
satisfied  all  the  duties  which  friendship  and  gratitude 
require. 

No  courtier  cares  to  take  the  initiative  in  anything, 
but  he  will  offer  to  second  him  who  does,  because,  judging 
of  others  by  himself,  he  thinks  that  no  one  will  make 
a  beginning,  and  that  therefore  he  shall  not  be  obliged 
to  second  any  one.  This  is  a  gentle  and  polite  way 
of  refusing  to  employ  his  influence,  good  offices,  and 
mediation  in  favour  of  those  who  stand  in  need  of  them, 

(30.)  How  many  men  almost  stifle  you  with  their 
demonstrations  of  friendship,  and  pretend  to  love  and 
esteem  you  in  private,  who  are  embarrassed  when  they 
meet  you  in  public,  and  at  the  king's  levde,  or  at  mass 
at  Versailles,  look  another  way,  and  do  all  they  can  to 
avoid  you.  There  are  few  courtiers  who  have  sufficient 
greatness  of  soul  or  confidence  in  themselves  to  dare 
to  honour  in  public  a  man  of  merit  but  who  does  not 
occupy  a  grand  post. 

(31.)  I  see  a  man  surrounded  and  followed  by  a 
crowd,  but  he  is  in  office.  I  see  another  to  whom 
every  one  says  a  few  words,  but  he  is  a  court  favourite  ; 
a  third  is  embraced  and  caressed  even  by  persons  of 
high  rank,  but  he  is  wealthy  ;  a  fourth  is  stared  at  by 
all,  and  pointed  at,  but  he  is  learned  and  eloquent.  I 
perceive  one  whom  nobody  omits  bowing  to,  but  he  is 


OF   THE    COURT.  1 95 

a  bad  man.      I  should  like  to  see  a  man  courted  who  is 
merely  good  and  nothing  else. 

(32.)  When  a  man  is  appointed  to  a  new  post  he  is 
inundated  with  praises,  which  flood  the  courtyards,  the 
chapel,  overflow  the  grand  staircase,  the  vestibules,  the 
galleries,  and  all  the  rooms  of  the  palace  ;  ^  he  has  quite 
enough  of  them,  and  can  no  longer  bear  it.  There  are 
not  two  different  opinions  about  him ;  those  of  envy 
and  jealousy  are  the  same  as  those  of  adulation  ;  every 
one  is  carried  away  by  the  raging  torrent  which  forces 
a  person  to  say  what  he  thinks  of  such  a  man,  or  what 
he  does  not  think  of  him,  and  often  to  commend  a  man 
of  whom  he  has  no  knowledge.  If  such  a  man  has 
any  intelligence,  merit,  or  valour,  he  becomes  in  one 
moment  a  genius  of  the  first  order,  a  hero,  a  demi-god  ; 
he  is  so  extravagantly  flattered  in  all  the  portraits 
painted  of  him  that  he  appears  disagreeably  ugly  when 
compared  with  any  of  them  ;  it  is  impossible  for  him 
ever  to  reach  the  point  to  which  servility  and  adulation 
would  have  him  rise ;  he  blushes  at  his  own  reputation. 
But  let  him  not  be  so  firmly  established  in  the  post  in 
which  he  has  been  placed  as  people  thought  he  was, 
and  the  world  will  without  difficulty  entertain  another 
opinion.  If  his  downfall  be  complete,  then  the  very  men 
who  were  instrumental  in  raising  him  so  high  by  their 
applause  and  praise  are  quite  ready  to  overwhelm  him 
with  the  greatest  contempt ;  I  mean,  there  are  none  who 
will  despise  him  more,  blame  him  with  greater  acrimony, 
or  deny  him  with  more  contumely  than  those  very  men 
who  were  most  impassioned  in  speaking  well  of  him.^ 

1  The  original  has  tout  rappartemeni.     The  rooms  where  the  courtiers 
danced  attendance  at  Versailles  were  called  thus. 

2  Some  commentators  imagine  this  refers  to  the  Marshal  de  Luxembourg, 


196  OF   THE   COURT. 

(33.)  It  may  be  justly  said  that  it  is  easier  to  get 
appointed  to  an  eminent  and  difficult  post  than  to 
keep  it. 

(34.)  We  see  men  fallen  from  a  high  estate  for  those 
very  faults  for  which  they  were  appointed  to  it. 

(35.)  At  court  there  are  two  ways  of  dismissing  or 
discharging  servants  and  dependants  ;  to  be  angry  with 
them,  or  to  make  them  so  angry  with  us  that  they  leave 
us  of  their  own  accord. 

(36.)  Courtiers  speak  well  of  a  man  for  two  reasons  : 
firstly,  that  he  may  know  they  have  commended  him  ; 
and  secondly,  that  he  may  say  the  same  of  them. 

(37.)  It  is  as  dangerous  at  court  to  make  any  ad- 
vances as  it  is  embarrassing  not  to  make  them. 

(38.)  There  are  some  people  who,  if  they  do  not 
know  the  name  or  the  face  of  a  man,  make  this  a 
pretence  for  laughing  at  him.  They  ask  who  that  man 
is ;  it  is  not  Rousseau,  Fabry,  or  La  Couture,^  for  then 
they  would  know  him. 

(39.)  I  am  told  so  many  bad  things  of  this  man,  and 
see  so  few  in  him,  that  I  begin  to  suspect  he  has  some 
merit  which  is  so  vexatious  that  it  eclipses  the  merit  of 
others. 


who  in  1675  was  appointed  to  succeed  the  Prince  de  Conde'  as  commander- 
in-chief  of  the  army — an  appointment  which  gave  general  satisfaction — and 
four  years  later  fell  into  disgrace  and  was  exiled.  The  hero  who  "  appears 
deformed  wlien  compared  to  his  portraits,"  seems  also  to  refer  to  the 
Marshal,  who  was  humpbacked.  However,  many  other  and  earlier 
authors  have  made  similar  remarks  about  favourites  of  fortune  fallen  from 
their  high  estate. 

1  Tliere  were  three  persons  named  Rousseau,  well  known  to  the  cour- 
tiers :  an  innkeeper  near  the  Porte  Saint-Denis,  the  doorkeeper  of  the  King's 
chamber,  and  the  fencing-master  of  the  young  royal  princes.  Fabry  was  a 
man  who  was  "  burned  at  the  stake  for  his  infamous  vices  about  twenty 
years  ago,"  says  La  Bruyere  ;  and  La  Couture,  the  tailor  of  the  Dau- 
phine,  had  become  insane,  and  was  always  about  the  court. 


OF   THE   COURT.  1 97 

(40.)  You  are  an  honest  man,^  and  do  not  make  it 
your  business  either  to  please  or  displease  the  favourites. 
You  are  merely  attached  to  your  master  and  to  your 
duty  ;  you  are  a  lost  man. 

(41.)  None  are  impudent  by  choice  ;  but  they  are  so 
constitutionally,  and  though  it  is  quite  wrong,  yet  it  is 
natural ;  a  man  who  is  not  born  so  is  modest  and  cannot 
easily  pass  from  one  extreme  to  another.  It  would  be 
useless  to  advise  such  a  man  to  be  impudent  in  order 
to  be  successful ;  a  bad  imitation  will  not  do  him  any 
good,  and  would  ensure  his  failure.  Without  real  and 
ingenious  effrontery  there  is  not  doing  anything  at  court. 

(42.)  We  seek,  we  hurry,  we  intrigue,  we  worry  our- 
selves, we  ask  and  are  refused  ;  we  ask  again  and  get 
what  we  ask  for ;  but  we  pretend  we  obtained  it  without 
ever  having  asked  for  it,  or  so  much  as  thought  about 
it,  and  even  when  we  had  quite  another  thing  in  view. 
This  is  an  obsolete  style,  a  silly  falsehood,  which  de- 
ceives nobody. 

(43,)  A  man  intrigues  to  obtain  an  eminent  post, 
lays  all  his  plans  beforehand,  takes  all  the  right  mea- 
sures, and  is  on  the  point  of  being  as  successful  as  he 
wishes ;  some  people  are  to  initiate  the  business  in 
hand,  others  are  to  second  it  ;  the  bait  is  already  laid, 
and  the  mine  ready  to  be  spnmg  ;  and  then  the  candi- 
date absents  himself  from  the  court.  Who  would  dare 
suspect  that  Artemon  ever  aimed  at  so  fine  a  post  when 
he  is  ordered  to  leave  his  seat  or  his  government  to  fill 
it  ?  2     Such  an  artifice  and  such  a  policy  has  become 


1  See  page  43,  note  2. 

2  The  "  Keys  "  pretend  that  Artemon  is  the  Marquis  de  Vardes,  who,  after 
having  been  in  exile  for  twenty  years,  intrigued  to  be  appointed  governor 
of  the  youthful  Duke  of  Burgundy,  and  died  in  1688,  before  he  was  success- 


190  OF    THE    COURT. 

SO  Stale,  and  the  courtiers  have  so  often  employed  it, 
that  if  I  would  impose  upon  the  world  and  mask  my 
ambition,  I  should  always  be  about  the  prince  to 
receive  from  his  own  hand  that  favour  which  I  had 
solicited  so  passionately. 

(44.)  Men  do  not  like  us  to  pry  into  their  prospects 
of  bettering  their  position,  or  to  find  out  what  post 
they  are  anxious  to  occupy,  because,  if  they  are  not 
successful,  they  fancy  their  failure  brings  some  dis- 
credit upon  them ;  and  if  they  succeed,  they  persuade 
themselves  it  redounds  more  to  their  credit  that  the 
giver  thought  them  worthy  of  it  than  that  they  thought 
themselves  worthy  of  it,  and,  therefore,  intrigued  and 
plotted ;  they  appear  decked  in  their  stateliness  as  well 
as  in  their  modesty.^ 

Which  is  the  greater  shame,  to  be  refused  the  post 
which  we  deserve,  or  to  be  put  into  one  we  do  not 
deserve  ? 

Difficult  as  it  is  to  obtain  a  place  at  court,  it  is  yet 
harder  and  more  difficult  to  be  worthy  of  filling  one. 

A  man  had  better  be  asked  by  what  means  he  ob- 
tained a  certain  post  than  why  he  did  not  obtain  it. 

People  become  candidates  for  any  municipal  office, 
or  try  to  get  a  seat  in  the  French  Academy,^  but  for- 
merly they  endeavoured  to  obtain  a  consulship.  Why 
should  a  man  not  labour  hard  during  the  early  years  of 
his  life  to  render  himself  fit  for  eminent  posts,  and  then 
ask  openly  and  fearlessly,  without  mystery  and  without 


ful  ;  about  a  year  afterwards  the  Duke  de  Beauvilliers  was  appointed  to 
the  vacant  post. 

1  Anallusion  to  theDukede  Beauvilliers,  mentioned  in  the  preceding  note. 

2  The  French  Academy,  composed  of  forty  members,  was  established  on 
the  2d  of  January  1635,  and  still  exists. 


OF    THE    COURT.  I99 

any  intriguing,  to  serve  his  fatherland,  his  prince,  and 
the  commonwealth  ? 

(45.)  I  never  yet  have  seen  a  courtier  whom  a  prince 
has  appointed  governor  of  a  wealthy  province,  given  a 
first-rate  place,  or  a  large  pension,  who  does  not  pro- 
test, either  through  vanity,  or  to  show  himself  dis- 
interested, that  he  is  less  pleased  with  the  gift  than 
with  the  manner  in  which  it  was  given.  What  is 
certain  and  cannot  be  doubted  is  that  he  says  so. 

To  give  awkwardly  denotes  the  churl ;  the  most 
difficult  and  unpleasant  part  is  to  give ;  then,  why  not 
add  a  smile  ? 

There  are,  however,  some  men  who  refuse  with  more 
politeness  to  grant  you  what  you  ask  than  others 
know  how  to  give ;  ^  and  some  of  whom  it  has  been 
said  that  you  have  to  ask  them  so  long,  and  they  give 
so  coldly  and  impose  such  disagreeable  conditions  on 
whatever  favour  you  have  to  tear  from  them,  that  their 
greatest  favour  would  be  to  excuse  us  from  receiving 
any.  2 

(46.)  There  are  some  men  at  court  so  covetous  that 
they  catch  hold  of  any  rank  or  condition  to  reap  its 
benefits ;  governments  of  provinces,  offices,  benefices, 
nothing  comes  amiss  to  them ;  they  are  so  situated 
that,  by  virtue  of  their  official  position,  they  can  accept 
any  kind  of  favour;  they  are  amphibious,  live  by  the 
church  and  the  sword,  and  one  day  or  other  will  dis- 
cover the  secret  of  including  the  law  also.^      If  you  ask 

1  It  is  said  that  the  Minister  of  State  Abel  Servien  (1598-1659)  refused 
politely,  and  that  Cardinal  Mazarin  (1602-1661)  did  not  know  how  to  give. 
"  P.  Corneille,  in  his  comedy  Le  Mcnteur  (act  i.  scene  i),  says  also— 
"  Tel  doniie  \  pleines  mains  qui  n'oblige  personne  : 
La  fa^on  de  donner  vaut  mieux  que  ce  qu'on  donne." 
3  Saint-Simon  adopts  the  word  ampliibie  from  our  author,  and  names, 


200  OF    THE    COURT. 

what  those  men  do  at  court,  you  will  be  told  that  they 
receive  and  envy  every  one  to  whom  anything  is  given. 

(47. )  A  thousand  people  at  court  wear  out  their  very 
existence  by  embracing,  caressing,  and  congratulating 
all  persons  who  have  received  favours,  and  die  without 
having  any  bestowed  on  themselves. 

(48.)  Menophilus  ^  borrows  his  manners  from  one 
profession  and  his  dress  from  another ;  he  goes  masked 
all  the  year,  though  he  does  not  conceal  his  counten- 
ance ;  he  appears  at  court,  in  town,  and  elsewhere, 
always  under  a  certain  name  and  in  the  same  disguise. 
He  is  found  out  and  known  by  his  face. 

(49.)  There  is  a  highroad  or  a  beaten  road,  as  it  is 
called,  which  leads  to  grand  offices,  and  there  is  a  cross 
or  bye-way  which  is  much  the  shortest. 

(50.)  We  run  to  get  a  look  at  some  wretched 
criminals,  we  line  one  side  of  the  street,  and  we  stand 
at  the  windows  to  observe  the  features  and  the  bearing 
of  a  man  who  is  doomed  and  knows  he  is  going  to  die, 
impelled  by  a  senseless,  malignant,  inhuman  curiosity. 
If  men  were  wise,  they  would  avoid  public  executions, 
and  then  it  would  even  be  considered  infamous  to  be 
present  at   such   spectacles. 2     If  you   are  of  such   an 

among  others,  a  certain  M.  Saint-Romain,  who  was  ambassador  at  the 
court  of  Portugal,  and  enjoyed  the  income  of  two  abbeys.  Some  com- 
mentators think  this  paragraph  refers  to  M.  de  Villeroy,  who  was  archbishop 
as  well  as  governor  of  Lyons,  and  died  in  1693  ;  whilst  others  suppose  it 
alludes  to  the  Chevalier  de  HautehuiWc,  £Tafui  /rieur  eTAguitaine,  and 
lieutenant-general  to  boot. 

1  Menophilus  is  said  to  be  either  Father  la  Chaise  (1624-1709X  tl^e 
Jesuit  confessor  of  Louis  XIV.,  or  the  celebrated  Capuchin  monk  Joseph 
(1577-1638),  the  confidant  of  Cardinal  Richelieu.  Most  likely  the  portrait 
was  intended  for  neither. 

2  When  our  author  wrote,  it  was  the  fashion  for  gentlemen  and  ladies  of 
the  best  society  to  be  present  at  public  executions.  Even  Madame  de 
S^vign^  went  with  some  ladies  of  the  court  to  see  the  poisoners  the  Mar- 
chioness de  Brinvilliers  and  la  Voisin  executed  (1670  and  1680). 


OF   THE    COURT.  20I 

inquisitorial  turn  of  mind,  exercise  your  curiosity  on  a 
noble  subject,  and  look  on  a  happy  man  on  the  very 
day  he  has  been  appointed  to  a  new  post,  and  when  he 
is  congratulated  on  his  nomination  ;  read  in  his  eyes, 
through  his  affected  composure  and  feigned  modesty,  his 
delight  and  latent  exultation ;  observe  how  quiet  his 
heart  beats  and  how  serene  his  countenance  looks  now 
that  he  has  obtained  all  he  wished ;  how  he  thinks 
of  nothing  but  his  long  life  and  health ;  how,  at  last, 
his  joy  bursts  forth  and  can  no  longer  be  concealed ; 
how  he  bends  beneath  the  weight  of  his  happiness,  and 
how  coolly  and  stifly  he  behaves  towards  those  who  are 
no  longer  his  equals ;  he  vouchsafes  them  no  answer, 
and  seems  not  to  see  them ;  the  embraces  and  demon- 
strations of  friendship  of  men  of  high  rank,  whom  he 
views  now  no  more  from  a  distance,  finish  his  ruin ;  he 
becomes  bewildered,  dazed,  and  for  a  short  time  his 
brain  is  turned.  You  who  would  be  happy  and  in  your 
prince's  favour,  consider  how  many  things  you  will  have 
to  avoid.  1 

(5  I.)  When  a  man  has  once  got  into  office,  he  neither 
makes  use  of  his  reason  nor  of  his  intelligence  to 
regulate  his  behaviour  and  manners  towards  others,  but 
shapes  them  according  to  his  office  and  his  position  ; 
this  is  the  cause  of  his  forgetfulness,  pride,  arrogance, 
harshness,  and  ingratitude.^ 

(52.)  Theonas  having  been  an  abbd^  for  thirty  years, 

1  This  "happy"  individual  seems  to  have  been  a  certain  M.  Boucherat, 
who  after  his  nomination  as  cliancelier  de  France  became  very  arrogant. 

2  Some  commentators  appear  to  think  this  refers  to  M.  de  Pontchartrain 
(see  page  143,  note  3),  who  had  been  Secretary  of  State  for  more  than  a  year 
when  this  paragraph  first  appeared  in  1691  ;  but  this  Minister. was  a  friend 
and  patron  of  our  author. 

3  There  were  two  kinds  of  abbis.  The  abbi  rSgulier,  who  was  always  a 
priest,  wore  the  habit  of  his  order,  not  seldom  was  a  high  dignitary  of  the 


202  OF   THE   COURT. 

grows  weary  of  being  so  any  longer.  Others  show  less 
anxiety  and  impatience  in  being  clad  in  purple  than  he 
displays  in  wearing  a  golden  cross  on  his  breast ;  ^  and 
because  no  great  festival  at  court  has  ever  made  any  altera- 
tion in  his  position, 2  he  rails  at  the  times,  declares  the 
state  badly  governed,  and  forebodes  naught  but  ill  for 
the  future.  Convinced  in  his  heart  that  in  courts 
merit  is  prejudicial  to  a  man  who  wishes  to  better  his 
position,  he  at  last  makes  up  his  mind  to  renounce  the 
prelacy ;  but  some  one  hastens  to  inform  him  that  he 
has  been  appointed  to  a  bishopric,  and  full  of  joy  and 
conceit  at  news  so  unexpected  he  says  to  a  friend, 
"You'll  see  I  shall  not  remain  a  bishop  for  ever  ;  I  shall 
be  an  archbishop  yet." 

(53.)  There  must  be  knaves  at  court  ^  about  the 
great  and  the  Ministers  of  State,  even  if  those  are 
animated  with  the  best  intentions  ;  but  to  know  when 
to  employ  them  is  a  very  difficult  question,  and  re- 
quires a  certain  amount  of  shrewdness.  There  are 
times  and  seasons  when  others  cannot  fill  their  places  ; 
for  honour,  virtue,  and  conscience,  though  always 
worthy  of  our  respect,  are  frequently  useless,  and  there- 
fore in  certain  emergencies  an  honest  man  *  cannot  be 
employed. 


Church,  and  the  aibi  cotnmendataire,  who  was  a  layman,  and  only  enjoyed 
the  revenues  of  the  abbey  ;  in  time  many  a  layman,  who  had  no  revenues 
whatever,  either  from  an  abbey  or  from  any  other  source,  adopted  the  semi- 
clerical  dress  of  an  abbe  and  called  himself  so. 

1  A  bishop  wore  a  golden  cross  on  his  breast ;  cardinals  wear  purple 
dresses. 

'  Louis  XIV.  used  on  festive  occasions  to  bestow  various  gifts  on  his 
courtiers,  as  well  as  abbeys  and  ecclesiastical  appointments  on  clerical 
dignitaries. 

3  The  "  Keys"  give  the  names  of  several  well-known  financiers  as  those 
"  knaves." 

*  In  the  original  honttne  de  bien.    (See  page  43,  note  2.) 


OF   THE    COURT.  203 

(54.)  An  ancient  author,  whose  very  words  I  shall 
take  the  liberty  to  quote,i  for  fear  1  should  weaken  the 
sense  of  them  by  my  translation,  says :  "To  forsake 
the  common  herd,  nay,  one's  very  equals,  to  despise  and 
vilify  them  ;  to  get  acquainted  with  rich  men  of  rank  ; 
to  join  them  in  their  private  amusements,  deceits, 
tricks,  and  bad  business  ;  to  be  brazen-faced,  shame- 
less, bankrupt  in  reputation  ;  to  endure  the  gibes  and 
jokes  of  all  men,  and,  in  spite  of  all  this,  not  to  fear 
to  go  on,  and  that  skilfully,  has  been  the  cause  of  many 
a  man's  fortune." 

(55.)  The  youth  of  a  prince  is  the  making  of  many 
courtiers. 

(56.)  Timantes,2  still  the  same,  and  possessed  of 
that  very  merit  which  at  first  got  him  reputation  and 
rewards,  has  deteriorated  in  the  opinion  of  the  courtiers, 
who  are  weary  of  respecting  him  ;  they  bow  to  him 
coldly,  forbear  smiling  on  him,  no  longer  accost  nor 
embrace  him,  nor  take  him  into  a  corner  to  talk  mysteri- 
ously about  some  trivial  affair  ;  they  have  nothing  more 
to  say  to  him.  He  receives  a  pension,  or  is  honoured 
by  being  appointed  to  a  new  post  j  and  his  virtues,  almost 
dead  in  their  memories,  revive  whilst  their  thoughts 
are  refreshed  ;  now  they  treat  him  as  they  did  at  the 
beginning,  and  even  better. 

(57.)  How  many  friends,  how  many  relatives  of  a 
new  Minister,  spring  up  in  a  single  night !  Some  men 
pride  themselves  on  their  former  acquaintance,  on  their 

1  Our  author  imitates  some  old  French  writer,  or  at  least  employs  anti- 
quated words,  of  which  the  only  one  worthy  of  notice  is  saffranier,  stained 
with  saffron,  because  the  houses  of  bankrupt  traders  were  formerly  stained 
yellow  ;  hence  saffranier  meant  "  a  bankrupt." 

^  Another  allusion  to  the  disgrace  of  the  Duke  de  Luxembourg.  (See 
page  J95,  note  2),  which  hap{>ened  from  1679  to  1681. 


204  OF   THE   COURT. 

having  been  his  fellow-students  or  neighbours  ;  others 
ransack  their  genealogy,  go  back  to  their  great-grand- 
father, and  recall  their  father  and  mother's  side,  for 
in  some  way  or  other  every  one  wishes  to  be  related 
to  him ;  several  times  a  day  people  affirm  they  are 
his  relatives,  and  they  would  even  gladly  print  it. 
They  say  presently  :  "  The  Minister  is  my  friend  ;  I  am 
very  glad  of  his  promotion,  and  I  ought  to  share  in  it, 
for  he  is  a  near  relative  of  mine."  Would  those  silly  men, 
those  servile  votaries  of  fortune,  those  effete  courtiers, 
have  said  this  a  week  ago  ?  Has  the  Minister  become 
a  more  virtuous  man,  or  more  worthy  of  his  sovereign's 
choice,  or  were  they  waiting  for  this  appointment  to 
know  him  better  ?  ^ 

(58.)  What  supports  me  and  comforts  me  when 
sometimes  men  of  high  rank  or  my  equals  slight  me, 
is  the  feeling  that  perhaps  those  very  men  only  despise 
my  position  ;  and  they  are  quite  right,  for  it  is  a  very 
humble  one ;  but  they  would  doubtless  worship  me  if  I 
were  a  Minister. 

Am  I  suddenly  to  obtain  some  post,  and  do  people 
know  it,  or  foresee  it,  because  they  forestall  me  and 
bow  to  me  first  ? 

(59.)  A  man  who  tells  us  he  has  dined  the  day 
before  at  Tibur,  or  is  going  to  have  supper  there  to- 
night, and  repeats  it  often,  who  brings  in  the  name  of 
Plancus  2  about  a  dozen  times  during  a  few  minutes' 

1  This  new  Minister  was,  according  to  some,  M.  Claude  le  Peletier  (see 
page  54,  note  1),  appointed  contrdUttr-general  desfinances  in  1683,  and  with 
whom  the  Duke  de  Villeroy,  afterwards  defeated  by  Marlborough  at 
Ramillies,  1706,  claimed  relationship,  though  without  any  foundation.  It 
seems  more  likely  to  have  referred  to  M.  de  Pontchartrain.  (See  page 
20I,  note  2.) 

2  Plancus  is  the  Minister  for  War,  Louvois,  who  died  suddenly  in  1691, 


OF   THE   COURT.  205 

conversation,  such  as,  "  Plancus  asked  me  .  .  ."  or  "  I 
said  to  Plancus  ..."  is  told  that  very  moment  that  his 
hero  has  been  snatched  away  by  sudden  death.  He 
starts  off  at  a  tangent,  gathers  around  him  the  people  in 
the  market-place  or  underneath  the  porticoes ;  accuses  the 
deceased,  rails  at  his  conduct,  and  blackens  his  admini- 
stration; he  even  denies  him  a  knowledge  of  those  details 
which  the  public  own  he  had  mastered,  will  not  allow 
him  to  have  had  a  good  memory,  refuses  to  praise  him 
for  his  steadiness  of  character  and  power  of  work, 
and  will  not  do  him  the  honour  to  believe  that  among 
all  the  enemies  of  the  State  there  was  one  who  was 
Plancus'  enemy, 

(60.)  I  think  it  must  be  a  pretty  sight  for  a  man  of  merit 
to  observe  at  a  meeting,  or  at  a  public  entertainment, 
that  the  very  seat  which  has  been  refused  him  is  given 
up  before  his  face  to  a  man  who  has  neither  eyes  to  see 
nor  ears  to  hear,i  nor  sense  to  know  and  to  judge,  and 
who  has  nothing  to  recommend  him  but  his  court-dress 
as  a  favourite,^  which  now  he  himself  is  above  wearing. 

(61.)  Theodotus^  is  staid  in  dress,  whilst  his  coun- 
tenance, as  theatrical  as  an  actor's  who  has  to  appear 
on  the  stage,  harmonises  with  his  voice,  his  carriage, 
gestures,  and  attitude.  He  is  cunning,  cautious,  in- 
sinuating, mysterious  ;  he  draws  near  you  and  whispers, 
"  It  is  fine  weather ;  it  is  thawing."     If  he  has  no  grand 

about  a  year  before  this  paragraph  appeared  :  Tibur  stands  for  Meudon, 
near  Paris.  In  the  ancient  Tibur,  a  town  of  Latium  to  the  east  of  Rome, 
and  now  called  Tivoli,  the  Latin  poet  Horace  had  his  country-seat ;  Plancus, 
the  Consul,  was  one  of  his  friends. 

1  This  is  a  reference  to  Psalm  cxxxv.  16,  17. 

2  In  French  certahies  livries,  certain  liveries.     Can  this  be  an  allusion 
to  the  justaucorJ>s  a  brevet,  or  coats  only  worn  by  the  King's  permission  ? 

*  The  commentators  suppose  that  a  certain  Abbe  de  Choisy  (1644-1724) 
is  meant,  who  passed  a  great  part  of  his  life  dressed  as  a  woman. 


2o6  OF   THE   COURT. 

qualifications,  he  has  all  the  little  ones,  even  those 
which  would  scarcely  become  a  youthful  pricieuse?- 
Imagine  the  application  of  a  child  building  a  house 
of  cards  or  catching  a  butterfly ;  such  is  Theodotus, 
engaged  on  an  affair  of  no  consequence,  and  which  is 
not  worth  any  one's  attention  ;  he,  however,  treats  it 
seriously,  and  as  if  it  were  of  the  greatest  importance  ; 
he  moves  about,  bestirs  himself,  and  is  successful  ; 
then  he  takes  breath  and  rests  awhile,  as  indeed  he 
should,  for  he  has  given  himself  a  good  deal  of  trouble. 
Some  people  are  intoxicated,  and  bewitched  with  the 
favour  of  the  great ;  they  think  of  them  all  day,  and 
dream  of  them  all  night  ;  they  are  always  trotting  up 
and  down  the  stairs  of  a  Minister's  apartment,  go  in 
and  come  out  of  his  ante-chamber,  but  they  have 
nothing  to  say  to  him,  though  they  speak  to  him  ;  they 
speak  to  him  a  second  time,  and  they  are  highly 
pleased,  for  they  have  spoken.  Press  them,  squeeze 
them,  and  nothing  will  be  got  from  them  but  pride, 
arrogance,  and  presumption  ;  address  them,  and  they 
do  not  answer ;  they  know  you  not,  they  look  be- 
wildered, and  their  brain  is  turned ;  their  relatives 
should  take  care  of  them  and  lock  them  up,  lest  in  time 
their  folly  should  drive  them  frantic,  and  make  them 
harm  some  one.  Theodotus  has  a  gentler  hobby  ; 
he  immoderately  loves  favour,  but  his  passion  is  less 
impetuous,  and  he  worships  it  secretly,  and  fosters  and 
serves  it  mysteriously ;  he  is  ever  on  the  watch  to 
discover  who  are  the  new  favourites  of  the  king  ;  2  if 
these  wish  for  anything,  he  offers  to  serve  them,  and  to 

1  Seepage  121,  note. 

2  The  original  has  tout  ce  qui paratt  de  nouveau  avec  les  livrees  de  la 
Javeur.     See  also  page  205,  note  2. 


OF    THE   COURT.  207 

intrigue  for  them ;  and  stealthily  sacrifices  to  them 
merit,  connections,  friendship,  engagements,  and  grati- 
tude. If  the  place  of  Cassini  1  were  vacant,  and  a 
Swiss  porter  or  postillion  of  a  favourite  were  applying 
for  it,  he  would  support  his  pretensions,  judge  him 
worthy  of  the  place,  and  think  him  capable  of  making 
observations  and  calculations,  and  of  discussing  about 
parhelions  and  parallaxes.2  Should  you  like  to  know 
whether  Theodotus  be  an  author  or  a  plagiary,  original 
or  a  copyist,  I  will  give  you  one  of  his  works,  and  bid 
you  read  and  judge.  Who  can  decide,  from  the  picture 
I  have  drawn,  whether  he  is  really  pious,  or  merely 
a  courtier  ?  ^  I  can  with  more  assurance  proclaim 
whether  the  stars  will  be  propitious  to  him.  Yes, 
Theodotus,  I  have  calculated  your  nativity ;  you  will 
obtain  an  appointment,  and  that  very  soon  ;  so  aban- 
don your  lucubrations,  and  print  no  more  any  of  your 
writings  ;   the  public  begs  for  quarter. 

(62.)  Never  more  expect  candour,  frankness,  justice, 
good  offices,  services,  kindness,  generosity,  steadiness 
from  a  man  who  for  some  time  has  spent  all  his  days 
at  court,  and  secretly  wishes  to  better  his  fortunes.  Do 
you  know  him  by  his  face  or  conversation  ?  He  no 
longer  calls  things  by  their  proper  names  ;  for  him 
there  exist  no  longer  any  knaves,  rogues,  fools,  or  im- 


^  The  Italian  astronomer  T.  D.  Cassini  (1625-1712)  was  the  head  of  the 
Parisian  Observatoire  for  astronomical  studies. 

2  A  parhelion  is  a  mock  sun  or  meteor  near  the  sun,  sometimes  tinged 
with  colours  ;  a  parallax  is  the  difference  between  its  position  as  seen 
from  some  point  on  the  earth's  surface  and  its  position  as  seen  from  some 
other  conventional  point. 

3  This  is  a  hit  at  the  courtiers,  who  all  simulated  piety  after  the  king  had 
married  Madame  de  Maintenon  and  revoked  the  edict  of  Nantes  in  1685, 
and  when  he  was  wholly  governed  by  the  Jesuits.  This  paragraph  first 
appeared  in  the  seventh  edition  of  the  "  Characters"  in  1692. 


2o8  OF   THE   COURT. 

pertinent  people ;  if  by  chance  he  should  say  of  any 
man  what  he  thinks  of  him,  that  very  man  might  come 
to  know  it,  and  prevent  him  from  getting  on.i  Though 
he  thinks  ill  of  everybody,  he  speaks  ill  of  none,  for  he 
only  wishes  success  to  himself,  but  would  make  believe 
that  he  wishes  it  to  everybody,  so  that  all  may  assist 
him,  or  at  least  that  nobody  may  oppose  him.  Not 
satisfied  with  being  insincere  himself,  he  cannot  endure 
that  any  one  should  be  otherwise  ;  truth  offends  his 
ear  ;  he  is  indifferent,  and  does  not  care  what  remarks 
are  made  about  the  court  and  courtiers,  but  because  he 
knows  what  they  mean,  he  fancies  himself  an  accom- 
plice, and  answerable  for  them.  A  tyrant  in  society 
and  a  martyr  to  his  ambition,  he  is  mournfully  circum- 
spect in  his  conduct  and  in  his  language  ;  his  raillery 
is  innocent,  but  cold  and  constrained  ;  his  laughter  is 
forced,  his  demonstrations  of  friendship  deceptive,  his 
conversation  desultory,  and  his  absence  of  mind  fre- 
quent :  he  is  profuse  in  his  praises,  and,  if  I  may  say 
so,  pours  out  torrents  of  them  whenever  any  man  in 
office  and  a  favourite  does  or  says  the  smallest  thing ; 
but  for  any  other  person  he  is  as  sparing  with  his  words 
as  if  he  were  consumptive.  He  has  different  formulas  for 
complimenting  people  on  entering  or  leaving  a  room,  as 
well  when  he  visits  as  when  he  is  visited,  and  none  of 
those  who  are  satisfied  with  mere  appearances  and 
forms  of  speech  ever  leaves  him  discontented.  He 
aims  at  getting  patrons  as  well  as  partisans,  and  is  a 
mediator,  a  confidant,  and  a  go-between  ;  he  wishes  to 
rule  ;  he  is  as  anxious  as  a  novice  to  do  every  trifling 
thing   that  has   to    be   observed   at    court ;    he   knows 

1  Cheminer,  in  the  original ;  a  word  much  employed  by  the  courtiers  of 
Louis  XIV. 


OF   THE   COURT.  209 

where  a  man  must  stand  to  be  seen ;  he  can  embrace 
you,  share  in  your  joy,  ask  you  one  question  after 
another  about  your  heaUh  and  your  affairs  ;  and  while 
you  are  answering  him,  he  loses  the  thread  of  his 
curiosity,  interrupts  you,  and  begins  another  subject ; 
or  if  he  happens  to  see  some  one  whom  it  is  necessary 
to  address  in  a  different  way,  he  finishes  his  congratu- 
lations to  you  whilst  condoling  with  the  other  person  ; 
he  weeps  with  one  eye  and  laughs  with  the  other. 
Sometimes,  in  imitation  of  the  Ministers  or  the  favourite, 
he  speaks  in  public  of  trivial  things,  such  as  the  wind 
or  the  frost,  but,  on  the  contrary,  is  silent  and  very 
mysterious  about  some  important  things  he  does  know, 
and  still  more  so  about  some  he  does  not  know. 

(63.)  There  is  a  country  ^  where  all  joy  is  conspi- 
cuous but  false,  and  all  grief  hidden  but  real.  Who 
would  imagine  that  the  anxiety  to  be  present  at  enter- 
tainments, the  raptures  and  applause  at  Moli^re's  or 
Harlequin's  comedies,^  the  banquets,  the  chase,  the 
ballets,  and  carrousels^  conceal  so  much  uneasiness,  so 
many  cares  and  such  various  interests,  so  many  fears 
and  expectations,  so  many  ardent  passions,  and  such 
serious  matters  of  business. 

(64.)  Court  life  is  a  serious,  sad  game,  requiring 
application ;  a  man  must  arrange  his  pieces  and  his 
plans,  have  a  design,  pursue  it,  thwart  his  adversaries, 
nowand  then  venture  something,  and  play  capriciously; 
yet  after  all  those  fancies  and  contrivances  he  may  be 
kept  in  check,  and  not  seldom  be  checkmated  ;  whilst 
often  with  well-handled  men  he  may  queen  it  and  win 


1  This'country  is,  of  course,  the  court. 

2  By  Harlequin's  comedies  the  Italian  stage  is  meant. 
*  See  page  174,  note  i. 

O 


2IO  OF   THE   COURT. 

the  game ;  the  most  skilful  or  the  most  fortunate  player 
obtains  the  victory. 

(65.)  The  wheels,  the  springs,  the  movements  of  a 
watch  are  hidden,  and  only  the  hands  can  be  seen  gra- 
dually going  round  and  finishing  their  course.  This  is 
a  true  image  of  a  courtier,  who  goes  over  a  great  deal 
of  ground,  but  often  returns  to  the  very  same  point 
whence  he  started. 

(66.)  "  Two-thirds  of  my  life  are  already  gone  ;  why, 
then,  should  I  perplex  myself  so  much  about  the  re- 
mainder ?  The  most  brilliant  career  neither  deserves 
the  anxiety  I  suffer,  nor  the  meannesses  I  accidentally 
commit,  nor  the  humiliations  and  mortifications  I  have 
to  bear.  In  thirty  years  those  giants  of  power  whom 
we  can  hardly  perceive  without  raising  our  heads  will 
be  destroyed ;  I,  who  am  so  small,  and  those  to  whom 
I  looked  up  with  so  much  anxiety  and  from  whom  I 
expected  all  my  greatness,  will  have  disappeared.  The 
best  of  all  good  things,  if  such  there  be  in  this  world,  is 
repose,  retirement,  and  a  place  you  can  call  your  own." 
N  .  .  .  was  of  this  opinion  when  he  was  in  disgrace, 
but  he  forgot  it  in  his  prosperity.^ 

(67.)  A  nobleman  who  resides  in  his  own  province, 
lives  free,  but  without  patronage  ;  if  he  lives  at  court  he 
will  be  patronised,  but  is  a  slave  ;  so  one  thing  com- 
pensates for  another. 

(68.)  Xantippus,2  at  the  uttermost  end  of  his  province. 


1  All  the  "  Keys  "  say  this  is  an  allusion  to  the  Cardinal  de  Bouillon  ;  but 
the  "  Keys  "  are  wrong,  for  his  disgrace  did  not  end  until  1690,  when  this 
paragraph  had  already  been  two  years  published. 

2  Xantippus  is  supposed  to  be  M.  de  Bontemps,  the  son  of  one  of  the 
premiers  valets  de  chamhre  of  the  king ;  but  this  supposition  seems  not 
correct,  for  he  was  brought  up  at  court,  and  was  never  what  can  be  called 
"  a  favourite." 


OF   THE   COURT.  211 

under  an  old  roof  and  in  a  wretched  bed,  dreamt  one 
night  that  he  saw  his  prince,  spoke  to  him,  and  felt 
great  joy  at  this  ;  when  he  awoke  he  was  melancholy,  told 
his  dream,  and  exclaimed,  "  What  strange  fancies  a  man 
may  have  in  his  sleep  !  "  Xantippus  some  time  after- 
wards went  to  court,  saw  the  prince,  and  spoke  to  him  ; 
and  then  his  dream  was  more  than  realised,  for  he 
became  a  favourite. 

(69.)  Nobody  is  a  greater  slave  than  an  assiduous 
courtier,  unless  it  be  a  courtier  who  is  more  assiduous. 

(70.)  A  slave  has  but  one  master  ;  an  ambitious  man 
has  as  many  masters  as  there  are  people  who  may  be 
useful  in  bettering  his  position. 

(71.)  A  thousand  men  scarcely  known  appear  every 
day  in  crowds  at  the  lev^e,^  to  be  seen  by  their  prince, 
who  cannot  see  a  thousand  at  a  time  ;  if  to-day  he  only 
sees  those  whom  he  saw  yesterday  and  will  see  to- 
morrow, how  many  must  be  unhappy  !  2 

(72.)  Of  all  those  persons  who  dangle  after  men  of 
rank,  and  pay  their  respects  to  them,  a  few  honour  them 
in  their  hearts,  a  great  number  follow  them  out  of 
ambition  or  interest,  but  the  motive  of  the  largest 
number  is  a  ridiculous  vanity  or  a  silly  impatience  to  be 
noticed. 

(73.)  There  are  certain  families  who,  according  to 
the  ways  of  the  world,  and  what  we  call  decency,  ought 
never  to  be  reconciled  to  one  another ;  however,  now 
they  are  good  friends,  for  those  whom  religion  could 
not  induce  to  lay  aside  their  feuds,  interest,  without 
much  trouble,  has  linked  together. 

(74.)  People  say  there  exists  a  certain  country  where 

•  1  See  page  186,  note  3.  2  See  also  page  213,  §  75. 


212  OF    THE    COURT. 

old  men  are  gallant,  well-mannered,  and  polite,  young 
men,  on  the  contrary,  unfeeling,  rude,  ill-mannered,  and 
impolite  ;  they  no  longer  entertain  a  passion  for  the  fair 
sex  at  an  age  when,  in  other  countries,  young  men  begin 
to  entertain  it ;  and  prefer  to  that  sex  feasts,  revelry,  and 
ridiculous  amours.  Amongst  those  people  a  man  is 
considered  sober  and  moderate  who  is  never  intoxicated 
with  anything  but  wine,  the  excessive  use  of  which 
makes  it  appear  insipid ;  they  endeavour  by  brandy, 
and  by  the  strongest  liquors,  to  revive  their  taste,  which 
is  already  gone,  and  want  nothing  to  complete  their 
excesses  but  to  drink  aquafortis.  The  women  of  that 
country  hasten  the  decay  of  their  beauty  by  their  arti- 
fices to  preserve  it  ;  they,  paint  their  cheeks,  eyebrows, 
and  shoulders,  which  they  bare,  together  with  their 
breasts,  arms,  and  ears,  as  if  they  were  afraid  of  con- 
cealing those  parts  which  they  think  will  please,  or  of  not 
showing  enough  of  themselves.  The  countenance  of  the 
inhabitants  of  this  country  is  not  clear,  but  blurred  and 
shrouded  with  a  mass  of  hair  that  does  not  belong  to 
them,  but  which  they  prefer  to  their  own,  and  which  is 
woven  into  a  something  to  cover  their  heads,  hanging 
down  half  way  their  bodies,  altering  all  their  features, 
and  preventing  people  from  being  known  by  their 
natural  faces.  This  nation  has,  besides,  its  God  and  its 
king  :  the  high  and  mighty  among  them  go  at  a  fixed 
time  every  day  to  a  temple  they  call  a  church  ;  at  the 
upper  end  of  that  temple  stands  an  altar  consecrated 
to  their  God,  where  a  certain  priest  celebrates  some 
mysteries,  called  by  them  holy,  sacred,  and  formidable. 
The  high  and  mighty  men  stand  in  a  large  circle  at  the 
foot  of  the  altar,  with  their  back  to  the  priest  and  the 
holy  mysteries,  and  their  faces  towards  their  king,  who* 


OF   THE   COURT.  213 

is  seen  kneeling  in  a  raised  and  open  pew,  and  towards 
whom  all  minds  and  all  hearts  seem  directed.  However, 
a  certain  kind  of  subordination  is  to  be  observed  whilst 
this  is  going  on;  for  this  people  seem  to  adore  their 
prince,  and  their  prince  appears  to  worship  God.  The 
natives  of  this  country  call  it  .  .  .  .  It  is  situated  about 
forty-eight  degrees  northern  latitude,  and  more  than 
eleven  hundred  leagues  by  sea  from  the  Iroquois  and 
the  Hurons.i 

(75.)  Whoever  will  consider  that  p  king's  presence 
constitutes  the  entire  happiness  of  courtiers,  that  their 
sole  occupation  and  satisfaction  during  the  whole  course 
of  their  lives  is  to  see  and  be  seen  by  him,2  will  in  some 
measure  understand  how  to  behold  God  may  constitute 
the  glory  and  felicity  of  the  saints.^ 

(76.)  Great  noblemen  show  their  respect  for  their 
prince ;  this  concerns  them,  as  they  have  also  their 
dependants.  Courtiers  of  inferior  rank  are  more  relax 
in  those  duties,  assume  a  kind  of  familiarity,  and  live 
like  men  whose  examples  none  will  follow. 

(77.)  What  is  there  wanting  in  the  youth  of  the 
present  time  ?  They  can  do  and  they  know  every- 
thing ;  or  at  least  if  they  do  not  know  as  much  as  it  is 
possible  to  know,  they  are  as  positive  as  if  they  did. 

(78.)  How  weak  are  men  !     A  great  lord    says   of 

1  The  court,  Versailles,  and  the  mass  which  Louis  XIV.  attended  daily  in 
the  royal  chapel  are  alluded  to  in  the  above  paragraph.  The  Iroquois  and 
the  Hurons,  both  tribes  of  North  American  Indians,  were,  at  the  time  La 
Bruyere  wrote,  considered  as  typical  savages,  and  are  often  mentioned  in 
the  literature  of  the  period. 

3  De  Bussy-Rabutin,  Madame  de  Sevign^,  the  Marshal  de  Villeroy,  and 
the  Duke  de  Richelieu,  all  describe  in  their  writings  the  misery  they  felt 
on  not  seeing  the  king. 

3  This  seems  to  be  an  ironical  allusion  to  the  idolatrous  worship  the 
courtiers  felt,  or  at  least  pretended  to  feel,  for  Louis  XIV.,  whom  they  con- 
sidered "  the  image  of  the  Divinity  on  earth." 


2  14  OF   THE    COURT. 

your  friend  Timagenes  that  he  is  a  blockhead,  but  he 
makes  a  mistake.  I  do  not  require  you  to  reply  that 
Timagenes  is  a  clever  man,  but  only  dare  think  he  is  not 
a  blockhead. 

He  says  also  that  Iphicrates  is  a  coward;  and  you 
have  seen  him  perform  an  act  of  bravery.  But  do  not 
be  uneasy.  I  do  not  insist  you  should  relate  it,  but,  after 
what  you  have  heard  this  lord  say,  still  remember  that 
you  saw  him  perform  it. 

(79.)  To  know  how  to  speak  to  a  king  is  perhaps 
the  sole  art  of  a  prudent  and  pliant  courtier.  One  word 
escapes  him,  which  the  prince  hears,  recollects,  and 
sometimes  lodges  in  his  heart  ;  there  is  no  recalling  it ; 
all  the  care  and  skill  that  can  be  used  to  explain  or 
soften  it,  serves  only  to  impress  it  the  more  and  to  bite 
it  in  deeper.  If  the  courtier  has  only  spoken  against 
himself,  though  this  misfortune  is  very  unusual,  the 
remedy  is  at  hand  ;  he  must  take  warning  by  his  fault, 
and  bear  the  punishment  of  his  levity  ;  but  if  another  be 
the  victim,  he  ought  to  feel  dejected  and  contrite.  Is 
there  a  better  rule  in  such  a  dangerous  conjuncture  than 
to  talk  to  our  sovereign  of  others,  of  their  persons, 
works,  actions,  manners,  or  conduct,  at  least  with  the 
same  reserve,  precaution,  and  care  with  which  we  talk 
of  ourselves  ? 

(80,)  I  would  say  that  a  man  who  tries  to  be  witty 
must  have  a  most  wretched  character,  if  it  had  not  been 
said  before.  1  Those  persons  who  injure  the  reputation 
or  position  of  others  for  the  sake  of  a  witticism  deserve 


1  Pascal  expresses  a  similar  thought  in  his  Pensies,  vi.  19,  and  so  do 
other  authors.  The  commentators  mention  as  known  court-wits  the  Count 
de  Grammont,  the  Duke  de  Roquelaure,  the  Duke  de  Lauzun,  the  Count  de 
Bussy-Rabutin,  and  others. 


OF   THE    COURT.  215 

to  be  punished  with  ignominy  ;  this  has  not  been  said 
before,  and  I  dare  say  it. 

(81.)  There  are  a  certain  number  of  ready-made 
phrases  which  we  store  and  use  when  we  wish  to  con- 
gratulate one  another.  Though  we  often  utter  them 
without  really  feeling  what  we  say,  and  are  received 
without  gratitude,  yet  we  must  not  omit  them,  because, 
at  least,  they  represent  the  very  best  thing  in  this  world, 
namely,  friendship  ;  and  since  men  cannot  depend  on 
one  another  in  reality,  they  seem  to  have  agreed  to  be 
satisfied  with  appearances. 

(82.)  With  five  or  six  terms  of  art,  and  nothing  else, 
we  set  up  for  connoisseurs  in  music,  painting,  architec- 
ture, and  gastronomy  ;  we  fancy  we  have  more  pleasure 
than  others  in  hearing,  seeing,  or  eating  ;  we  impose  on 
our  fellow-creatures  and  deceive  ourselves. 

(83.)  At  court  there  are  always  a  certain  number  of 
people  to  whom  a  knowledge  of  the  world,  politeness,  or 
fortune  supply  the  want  of  merit ;  ^  they  know  how  to 
enter  and  to  leave  a  room  ;  they  are  never  embarrassed 
in  their  conversation,  because  they  never  engage  in  one ; 
they  please  by  their  very  taciturnity,  and  make  them- 
selves appear  of  importance  by  their  prolonged  silence, 
or  by  uttering,  at  most,  a  few  monosyllables  ;  they 
answer  you  by  a  glance,  an  intonation,  a  gesture,  and  a 
smile ;  their  understanding,  if  I  may  venture  on  the 
expression,  is  only  two  inches  deep,  and  if  you  fathom 
it,  you  will  soon  come  to  the  bottom. 

(84.)  There  are  some  men  on  whom  favour  lights  as 
it  were  accidentally  ;  they  are  the  first  it  surprises  and 

1  M.  de  Bontemps  and  the  Marquis  de  Dangeau,  both  of  whom  we  have 
already  nieiitioned  (see  page  210,  note  2,  and  page  156,  note  2),  seem  to 
be  meant. 


2l6  OF  THE   COURT. 

even  alarms ;  they  recollect  themselves  at  last,  and 
think  they  are  worthy  of  their  good  fortune  ;  and,  as  if 
stupidity  and  fortune  were  two  things  incompatible,  or 
as  if  it  were  impossible  to  be  lucky  and  foolish  at  one 
and  the  same  time,  they  fancy  they  are  intelligent,  and 
venture,  or  I  should  rather  say,  are  conceited  enough,  to 
speak  on  all  occasions,  on  every  possible  subject,  and 
without  any  regard  for  their  audience.  I  might  add 
that  at  last  they  become  terrible,  and  disgust  every  one 
by  their  fatuity  and  nonsense.  This  is  at  least  certain  ; 
they  infallibly  discredit  those  who  assisted  them  in  their 
promotion.  1 

(85.)  What  shall  we  call  those  who  are  only  shrewd 
in  the  opinion  of  fools  ?  I  know  this,  that  able  men 
rank  them  with  the  people  they  impose  upon. 

A  man  must  be  very  shrewd  to  make  other  people 
believe  that  he  is  not  so  sharp  after  all. 

Shrewdness  is  neither  too  good  nor  too  bad  a  quality, 
but  is  something  between  a  virtue  and  a  vice  ;  there  is 
scarcely  any  circumstance  in  which  prudence  cannot 
supply  its  place,  and,  perhaps,  in  which  it  ought  not  to 
do  so. 

Shrewdness  is  a  near  neighbour  of  rascality  ;  there  is 
but  a  step  from  the  one  to  the  other,  and  that  a  slip- 
pery one  ;  falsehood  only  makes  the  difference,  for  add 
shrewdness  to  it,  and  the  result  is  rascality. 

Amongst  those  people  who,  out  of  shrewdness,  hear 
everything  and  talk  little,  be  sure  to  talk  less ;  or,  if 
you  must  talk  much,  say  little. 

(86.)  You  have  a  just  and  important  business  depend- 

1  The  commentators  give  the  names  of  several  personages,  all  already 
mentioned  before,  such  as  the  Count  d'Aubign^,  the  Chancellor  Boucherat, 
the  Archbishop  of  Rheims,  Le  Tellier,  and  others. 


OF   THE    COURT.  21  7 

ing  on  the  consent  of  two  persons  ;  and  one  of  them 
says  to  you  that  he  will  favour  it  provided  the  other  will 
agree  to  it,  which  the  latter  does,  though  he  wishes  to 
know  what  the  first  intends  doing.  Meanwhile  nothing 
comes  of  it ;  and  months  and  years  roll  on  to  no  pur- 
pose. You  say  you  are  bewildered,  that  it  is  a  complete 
mystery  to  you,  and  that  all  that  was  necessary  for 
your  success  was  for  these  two  persons  to  meet  together 
and  to  converse  about  it.  I  tell  you  I  see  through  it  all, 
and  it  is  no  mystery  to  me  ;  they  have  met  and  con- 
versed about  your  business. 

(87.)  Methinks  a  man  who  solicits  for  others  shows 
the  confidence  of  a  person  asking  for  justice,  whilst  he 
who  speaks  or  acts  for  himself  is  as  embarrassed  and 
bashful  as  if  he  were  asking  a  favour. 

(-88.)  If  a  courtier  be  not  continually  upon  his  guard 
against  the  snares  laid  for  him  to  make  him  ridiculous, 
he  will,  with  all  his  sagacity,  be  amazed  to  find  himself 
duped  by  people  far  less  intelligent  than  he  is. 

(89.)  In  life  some  circumstances  may  happen  when 
truth  and  simplicity  prove  the  best  policy. 

(90.)  If  you  are  in  favour,  whatever  you  do  is  well 
done ;  you  commit  no  faults,  and  every  step  you  take 
leads  you  to  the  goal ;  but  if  you  are  not  in  favour, 
everything  you  do  is  faulty  and  useless,  and  whatever 
path  you  take  leads  you  out  of  the  way. 

(.91.)  A  man  who  has  schemed  for  some  time  can  no 
longer  do  without  it ;  all  other  ways  of  living  are  to 
him  dull  and  insipid. 

(92,)  Intelligence  is  requisite  to  be  a  schemer ;  yet 
a  man  may  have  a  sufficient  amount  of  it  to  be  above 
scheming  and  plotting,  and  above  subjecting  himself 
to  such  things ;  in  such  a  case  he  takes  other  means  for 


2l8  OF    THE    COURT. 

bettering  his  fortune,  or  for  acquiring  a  brilliant  reputa- 
tion. 

(93.)  Fear  not,  O  Aristides,  with  your  sublime  in- 
tellect, your  universal  learning,  your  well-tried  honest)', 
and  your  highly  accomplished  merits,  to  fall  into  disgrace 
at  court,  or  to  lose  the  favour  of  men  of  high  rank  so 
long  as  they  need  you.^ 

(94.)  Let  a  favourite  watch  his  actions  very  narrowly  ; 
for  if  I  have  to  wait  in  his  anteroom  not  so  long  as 
usual ;  if  his  countenance  be  more  open,  his  forehead 
less  clouded  ;  if  he  listens  to  me  more  patiently,  and 
sees  me  to  the  door  a  little  farther  than  he  used  to  do, 
I  shall  think  he  is  tottering,  and  shall  not  be  mistaken. 

Man  has  but  very  little  strength  of  mind,  for  dis- 
grace or  mortifications  are  needed  to  make  him  more 
humane,  pliable,  less  rude,  and  more  of  a  gentleman. 

(95.)  If  we  observe  certain  people  at  court,  their 
discourses  and  their  whole  conduct  show  that  they 
think  neither  of  their  grandfathers  nor  grandchildren  ; 
they  only  care  for  the  present,  and  that  they  do  not 
enjoy,  but  abuse. 

(96.)  Straton  2  is  born  under  two  planets,  equally 
fortunate  and  unfortunate ;  his  life  is  a  romance,  but 
with  even  less  probability.  Adventures  he  had  none, 
but  good  and  bad  dreams  in  abundance,  or,  if  I  may  say 

1  All  the  "Keys"  say  that  M.  de  Pomponne  (1618-1699)  is  meant  by 
Aristides  ;  but  he  was  still  in  disgrace  when  this  paragraph  was  published 
(1689),  and  remained  so  for  two  years  longer. 

2  Straton  is  undoubtedly  the  Duke  de  Lauzun,  and  his  brother-in-law, 
the  Duke  de  Saint-Simon,  admits  it.  Lauzun  had  been  a  great  favourite  of  the 
king,  and  had  nearly  married  Louis  XIV.'s  cousin,  Mademoiselle  de  Mont- 
pensier,  but  he  was  disgraced,  imprisoned  for  ten  years,  partly  reinstated 
in  the  king's  favour,  banished  again  from  the  court,  and  finally  sent  with 
an  army  of  French  auxiliaries  to  assist  James  11.  in  Ireland,  where  he  was 
present  at  the  battle  of  the  Boyne.  The  Duke  died  in  1723,  at  the  age  of 
ninety. 


OF   THE   COURT.  219 

SO,  no  dreams  come  up  to  his  life.  Fate  has  been  to 
none  more  kind  than  to  him  ;  he  is  acquainted  with  the 
mean  and  the  extremes  of  life  ;  he  has  made  a  figure, 
been  in  distress,  led  an  ordinary  life,  and  gone  through 
all  vicissitudes.  He  has  made  himself  valued  for  those 
virtues  which  he  seriously  asserted  he  possessed  ;  he 
has  said  of  himself,  "  I  have  intelligence  and  courage," 
and  every  one  said  after  him,  "  He  has  intelligence 
and  courage."  In  his  good  and  bad  fortune  he  has 
experienced  the  disposition  of  courtiers,  who  said  of 
him  perhaps  more  good  and  more  ill  than  ever  he 
deserved.  When  people  praised  him  they  called  him 
pretty,  amiable,  rare,  wonderful,  and  heroic  ;  and  words 
quite  the  contrary  have  also  been  employed  to  vilify 
him.  His  character  is  heterogeneous,  mixed  and  con- 
fused ;  his  life  has  been  an  enigma,  which  is  not  yet 
wholly  solved. 

(97.)  Favour  raises  a  man  above  his  equals,  and 
disgrace  throws  him  below  them. 

(98.)  He  who  one  day  or  other  deliberately  abandons 
a  great  name,  a  great  authority,  or  a  large  fortune,  frees 
himself  at  once  from  many  troubles,  many  restless 
nights,  and  sometimes  from  many  crimes. 

(99.)  The  world  will  be  the  same  a  hundred  years 
hence  as  it  is  now ;  there  will  be  the  same  stage  and 
the  same  decorations,  though  not  the  same  actors.  All 
who  were  glad  to  receive  favours,  as  well  as  those 
who  were  grieved  and  in  despair  for  boons  that  were 
refused,  shall  have  disappeared  from  the  boards  ;  others 
have  already  made  their  entrances  who  will  act  the 
same  parts  in  the  same  plays,  and  in  their  turn  make 
their  exits,  whilst  those  who  have  not  yet  appeared  one 


2  20  OF   THE   COURT. 

day  will  also  be  gone,  and  fresh  actors  will  take  their 
places.    What  reliance  is  there  to  be  placed  on  any  actor  ? 

(loo.)  Whoever  has  seen  the  court  has  seen  the 
most  handsome,  the  best-looking,  and  the  most  decked- 
out  part  of  the  world.  He  who  despises  the  court  after 
having  seen  it,  despises  the  world. 

(loi.)  The  city  makes  a  man  take  a  dislike  to  the 
country  ;  the  country  undeceives  him  as  to  the  city  and 
cares  of  the  court. 

A  healthy  mind  acquires  at  court  a  liking  for  solitude 
and  retirement.  1 


1  The  first  and  last  paragraphs  of  this  chapter  are  an  epitome  of  the 
whole. 


X. 


OF  THE  GREAT. 


(i.)  'X'HE  common  people  are  so  blindly  prepossessed 
in  favour  of  the  great,  and  so  enthusiastic  about 
their  bearing,  looks,  tone  of  voice,  and  manners,  that 
if  the  latter  would  take  it  into  their  heads  to  be  good, 
this  prepossession  would  become  idolatry. 

(2.)   If  you  are  intrinsically   vicious,  O   Theagenes  ^ 
I  pity  you ;  if  you  have  become  so  out  of  weakness  for 

1  Nearly  all  commentators  suppose  that  Theagenes  is  Phillippe  de 
VcnAtm^{i(iS$-i72j), grand prieur  de  Malte,  a  grandson  of  Henry  IV.  and 
Gabrielle  d'Estre'es,  and  one  of  the  most  profligate  men  of  his  age  ;  but  it 
is  more  likely  that  La  Bruy&re  wished  to  reprove  his  former  pupil,  the 
Duke  de  Bourbon,  who  at  the  time  this  paragraph  appeared  (1691)  was  but 
twenty-three  years  old,  and  addicted  to  very  bad  company. 


222  OF   THE   GREAT. 

those  men  who  have  an  interest  in  your  being  debauched, 
who  have  conspired  to  corrupt  you,  and  boast  already 
of  their  success,  you  will  excuse  me  if  I  despise  you. 
But  if  you  are  wise,  temperate,  modest,  polite,  generous, 
grateful,  industrious,  and  besides  of  a  birth  and  rank 
which  ought  to  set  examples  rather  than  copy  those 
others  give,  and  to  make  rules  rather  than  to  receive  them, 
agree  with  such  a  class  of  men,  and  be  complaisant 
enough  to  imitate  their  disorders,  vices,  and  follies,  after 
the  respect  they  owe  you  has  obliged  them  to  imitate  your 
virtues.  This  is  a  bitter  but  useful  ironical  remark, 
very  suitable  for  securing  your  morals,  for  ruining  all 
their  projects,  and  for  compelling  them  to  remain  as 
they  are,  and  leave  you  as  you  are. 

(3.)  In  one  thing  great  men  have  an  immense  ad- 
vantage over  others  ;  they  may  enjoy  their  sumptuous 
banquets,  their  costly  furniture,  their  dogs,  horses, 
monkeys,  dwarfs,  fools,  and  flatterers  ;  but  I  envy  them 
the  happiness  of  having  in  their  service  their  equals, 
and  sometimes  even  their  superiors,  in  feelings  and  in- 
telligence. 

(4.)  Great  lords  delight  in  opening  glades  in  forests, 
in  raising  terraces  on  long  and  solid  foundations,  in 
gilding  their  ceilings,  in  bringing  a  good  deal  of  water 
where  there  was  none  before,  in  growing  oranges 
in  hothouses  ;  but  they  are  not  anxious  to  restore  peace 
to  the  distracted,  to  make  joyful  the  afflicted,  and  to 
forestall  urgent  necessities,  or  to  relieve  them. 

(5.)  The  question  arises,  whether,  in  comparing  the 
different  conditions  of  men,  their  troubles  and  advan- 
tages, we  cannot  observe  such  a  mixture  or  balance  of 
good  and  evil  as  seems  to  place  them  on  an  equality, 
or  at  least  as  makes  one  scarcely  more  desirable  than 


OF   THE    GREAT. 


223 


another.  Those  men  who  are  powerful,  rich,  and  who 
want  nothing  may  put  the  question,  but  the  decision  must 
be  left  to  the  indigent. 

There  is,  however,  a  kind  of  charm  belonging  to  each 
of  those  different  conditions,  and  which  lasts  till  misery 
removes  it.  The  great  please  themselves  in  excess,  their 
inferiors  in  moderation  :  these  delight  in  lording  and 
commanding  ;  those  are  pleased,  and  even  proud,  to 
serve  and  to  obey  :  the  great  are  surrounded,  compli- 
mented, and  respected  ;  the  little  surround,  compliment, 
and  cringe  ;  and  both  are  satisfied. 

(6.)  Good  words  cost  the  great  so  little,  and  their 
rank  gives  them  such  a  dispensation  for  not  keeping 
what  they  have  most  solemnly  promised,  that  they  really 
are  moderate  in  being  so  sparing  of  those  promises. 

(7.)  "Such  a  person,"  says  some  great  man,  "has 
grown  old  and  feeble,  and  has  worn  himself  out  in  my 
service.  What  can  I  do  for  him  ? "  A  younger  com- 
petitor steps  in,  and  obtains  the  post  which  had  been 
refused  to  this  unfortunate  man  for  no  other  reason  but 
that  he  too  well  deserved  it. 

(8.)  "  I  do  not  know  how  it  happens,"  you  exclaim 
with  a  cold  and  disdainful  air,  "  that  Philanthes,  though 
he  possesses  merit,  intelligence,  is  agreeable,  exact  in 
fulfilling  his  duties,  faithful  and  fond  of  his  master,  is 
not  greatly  valued  by  him,  cannot  please,  and  is  not  at 
all  liked." — "  Explain  yourself;  do  you  blame  Philanthes 
or  the  great  man  whom  he  serves  ? " 

(9.)  It  is  often  more  advantageous  to  quit  the  service 
of  great  men  than  to  complain  of  them. 

(10.)  Who  can  explain  to  me  why  some  men  get  a 
prize  in  a  lottery  and  others  find  favour  with  the  great  ? 

(11.)  The  great  are  so  happily  situated  that  in  the 


2  24  OF   THE   GREAT. 

whole  course  of  their  Hves  they  never  feel  the  loss 
of  their  best  servants,  or  of  persons  eminent  in  their 
various  capacities,  and  from  whom  they  have  obtained 
all  the  pleasure  and  profit  they  could.  As  soon  as  those 
unique  persons,  so  difficult  to  replace,  are  dead,  a  host 
of  flatterers  are  ready  to  expose  their  supposed  weak- 
nesses, from  which,  according  to  them,  their  successors 
are  entirely  free ;  they  are  convinced  that  these  suc- 
cessors, whilst  possessing  all  the  skill  and  knowledge 
of  their  predecessors,  will  have  none  of  their  faults  ;  and 
this  is  the  language  which  consoles  princes  for  the  loss 
of  worthy  and  excellent  servants,  and  makes  them  satis- 
fied with  indifferent  ones.^ 

(i2.)  The  great  feel  a  contempt  for  intelligent  men, 
who  have  nothing  but  intelligence ;  men  of  intelligence 
despise  the  great,  who  possess  nothing  but  greatness  ;  a 
good  man  pities  them  both,  if  their  greatness  or  intel- 
ligence is  not  allied  with  virtue. 

(13.)  When,  on  the  one  hand,  I  see  some  brisk,  busy, 
intriguing,  bold,  dangerous,  and  obnoxious  persons  at  the 
table  of  the  great,  and  sometimes  intimate  with  them, 
and,  on  the  other  hand,  consider  what  difficulty  a  man 
of  merit  has  to  obtain  an  interview  with  them,  I  am  not 
always  inclined  to  believe  that  the  wicked  are  tolerated 
out  of  interest,  or  that  good  men  and  true  are  looked 
upon  as  useless  ;  but  I  am  rather  confirmed  in  my 
opinion  that  rank  and  sound  judgment  do  not  always 
go  together,  and  that  a  liking  for  virtue  and  virtuous 
people  is  a  distinct  quality. 


1  This  seems  to  be  an  allusion  to  Louis  XIV.,  who  never  felt  the  loss  of 
any  of  his  ministers  or  officers.  The  latter  part  of  the  above  paragraph 
probably  refers  to  the  successors  of  Turenne,  Conde,  and  Colbert,  who  had 
all  been  dead  some  time  before  the  year  1689,  when  it  first  appeared. 


OF   THE   GREAT.  225 

(14.)  Lucilius  chooses  to  spend  his  life  rather  in  being 
admitted  on  sufferance  by  a  few  of  the  great  than  in 
being  reduced  to  his  Hving  familiarly  with  his  equals. 

The  custom  of  associating  with  people  who  are  our 
superiors  in  rank  ought  to  have  some  restrictions  ; 
it  often  requires  extraordinary  talents  to  put  it  into 
practice.  1 

(15.)  Theophilus' disease  seems  to  be  incurable  ;  he 
has  suffered  from  it  these  thirty  years,  and  now  he  is 
past  recovery.  He  was,  is,  and  will  always  be  desirous 
of  governing  the  great ;  death  alone  can  extinguish  with 
his  life  this  craving  for  swaying  and  ruling  other  minds. 
Is  it  in  him  zeal  for  his  neighbour's  weal,  or  is  he  accus- 
torhed  to  it,  or  is  it  an  excessive  good  opinion  he  has  of 
himself?  He  insinuates  himself  into  every  palace,  and 
does  not  stop  in  the  middle  of  an  apartment,  but  goes  on 
to  a  window-niche  or  a  closet ;  other  people  wait  to  be  seen 
or  to  have  an  audience  till  he  has  finished  his  speech,  which 
lasts  generally  a  goodly  time,  during  which  he  gesticu- 
lates much.  He  penetrates  the  secrets  of  many  families, 
has  a  share  in  their  good  or  bad  fortunes  ;  forestalls  many 
an  occasion,  offers  his  services,  and  forces  himself  upon 
people  so  discreetly  ^  that  he  must  be  admitted.  The 
care  of  ten  thousand  souls,  for  which  he  is  accountable 
to  Providence  as  much  as  for  his  own,  is  not  sufficient 
to  employ  his  time  or  satisfy  his  ambition  ;  there  are 
others  of  a  higher  rank,  and  of  more  consideration,  for 
whom  he  is  not  responsible,  but  of  whom  he  officiously 
takes  charge.     He  listens  and  watches  for  anything  that 

1  If  the  Abbe  de  Choisy  (see  page  205,  note  3)  ever  told  La  Bruyere  how 
he  was  brought  up,  as  he  mentions  in  his  Memoires,  there  can  be  no  doubt 
he  was  the  original  of  Lucilius. 

2  In  the  original,  il  se /ait  de  fete ;  an  expression  also  used  by  other 
authors  in  La  Bruyere's  lime. 

P 


2  26  OF   THE    GREAT, 

may  gratify  his  spirit  of  intrigue,  meddling  and  muddling. 
A  great  man  has  scarcely  set  foot  on  shore,  but  he  gets 
hold  of  him,  and  pounces  upon  him ;  and  we  hear  that 
Theophilus  is  his  guide  and  director  before  we  could 
even  suspect  he  had  so  much  as  thought  of  it.i 

(i6.)  A  coldness  or  incivihty  from  our  superiors  in 
rank  makes  us  hate  them ;  but  a  bow  or  a  smile  soon 
reconciles  us. 

(17.)  There  are  some  proud  men  whom  the  success 
of  their  rivals  humbles  and  mortifies ;  it  is  a  disgrace 
which  even  sometimes  makes  them  return  your  bow  ; 
but  time,  which  alleviates  all  things,  restores  them  at 
last  to  their  natural  disposition. 

(18.)  The  contempt  the  great  feel  for  the  common 
people  renders  them  so  indifferent  to  their  flattery  or 
praises,  that  it  does  not  feed  their  vanity.  In  like 
manner,  princes  praised  continually  and  unreservedly 
by  the  great  and  the  courtiers,  would  be  more  elated  if 
they  had  a  better  opinion  of  those  who  praise  them. 

(19.)  The  great  believe  themselves  the  only  persons 
who  are  the  pink  of  perfection,  and  will  hardly  allow 
any  sound  judgment,  abilitj',  or  refined  feelings  in  any 
of  a  meaner  rank  ;  but  they  arrogate  to  themselves  those 
qualities  by  virtue  of  their  birth.  However,  they  are 
greatly  in  error  in  entertaining  such  absurd  prejudices, 
for  the  best  thoughts,  the  best  discourses,  the  best  writ- 
ings, and  perhaps  the  most  refined  behaviour,  have  not 

1  Theophilus  is  generally  believed  to  have  been  the  Abbe  Roquette  (1623- 
1707),  Bishop  of  Autun,  the  supposed  prototype  of  Moliere's  Tariuffe,  and, 
according  to  Saint-Simon,  "a  man  all  sugar  and  honey,  and  mixed  up  in 
every  intrigue."  The  "great  man.  .  .  scarcely  set  foot  on  shore  "  was 
James  II.  of  England,  who  came  to  France  in  1689,  two  years  before  the 
above  paragraph  was  published.  The  Abbe  Roquette's  character  seems  not 
so  black  as  it  has  been  painted,  at  least  according  to  M.  J.  Henri  Pignot's  Life 
of  him,  published  in  X876. 


OF   THE    GREAT. 


227 


always  been  found  among  them.  They  have  large 
estates  and  a  long  train  of  ancestors,  and  there  is  no 
arguing  about  those  facts.  ^ 

(20.)  Have  you  any  inteUigence,  grandeur  of  mind, 
capacity,  taste,  sound  judgment  ?  Can  I  believe  pre- 
judice and  flattery  which  so  boldly  proclaim  your  merit  ? 
No  !  I  suspect  and  reject  them.  I  will  not  be  dazzled 
by  that  look  of  capacity  and  grandeur  which  makes 
it  appear  as  if  you  could  act,  speak,  and  write  better 
than  any  one  else ;  which  makes  you  so  niggardly  of 
bestowing  praise,  and  renders  it  impossible  to  obtain 
the  smallest  approbation  from  you.  Hence  I  naturally 
infer  that  you  are  a  favourite,  have  influence,  and  are 
very  wealthy.  How  shall  we  describe  you,  Telephon  ?  - 
We  can  only  approach  you  as  we  do  fire,  namely,  from 
a  certain  distance ;  and  to  form  an  opinion  of  you  in  a 
sensible  and  rational  manner,  we  ought  to  strip  you, 
handle  you,  and  confront  you  with  your  equals.  Your 
confidant,  your  most  intimate  friend,  who  gives  you  advice, 
for  whom  you  give  up  the  society  of  Socrates  and  Aris- 
tides,  with  whom  you  laugh,  and  who  laughs  louder 
than  yourself,  Davus,^  in  short,  I  know  thoroughly  ;  and 
this  is  enough  for  me  to  make  you  out. 

(21.)  There  are  some  persons  who,  if  they  did  know 
their  inferiors  and  themselves,  would  be  ashamed  to  be 
above  them. 

1  Compare  in  the  chapter  "  Of  Personal  Merit,"  §  33. 

2  Telephon,  an  odd  name  now,  is  said  to  be  a  portrait  of  Fran5ois 
d'Aubusson  (1625-1691),  Count  de  la  Feuillade,  Duke  de  Rouanez,  and 
Marshal  of  France,  who  at  his  cost  erected  a  bronze  monument  to  the  glory 
of  Louis  XIV.  on  the  Place  des  Victoires  in  Paris,  where  it  still  stands. 

3  Davus  is  a  certain  Prudhomme,  a  proprietor  of  bath-  and  wash-houses, 
with  whom  M.  de  la  Feuillade  lodged  before  he  became  a  favourite,  in 
whom  he  had  always  the  greatest  confidence,  and  whose  daughter  he  is 
supposed  to  have  married  after  the  death  of  his  first  wife. 


228  OF    THE    GREAT. 

(22.)  If  there  are  but  few  excellent  orators,  are  there 
many  who  can  understand  them  ?  If  good  writers  are 
scarce,  are  there  many  who  can  read  ?  Thus  we  are 
always  complaining  of  the  paucity  of  persons  qualified 
to  counsel  kings,  and  assist  them  in  the  administration 
of  affairs  ;  but  if  such  able  and  intelligent  personages 
make  their  appearance,  and  act  according  to  their  ideas 
and  knowledge,  are  they  beloved  and  esteemed  as  much 
as  they  deserve  ?  Are  they  commended  for  what  they 
plan  and  do  for  their  country  ?  They  exist,  that  is  all ; 
they  are  censured  if  they  fail,  and  envied  if  they  succeed. 
Let  us  then  blame  the  people  for  whom  it  would  be 
ridiculous  to  find  an  excuse.  The  great  and  those  in 
power  look  on  their  dissatisfaction  and  jealousy  as  in- 
evitable ;  and,  for  this  reason,  they  have  been  gradually 
induced  not  to  take  into  account  and  to  neglect  their 
opinions  in  whatever  they  undertake,  and  even  to  con- 
sider this  a  rule  in  poHtics. 

The  common  people  hate  one  another  for  the  injuries 
they  reciprocally  do  each  other  ;  the  great  are  execrated 
by  them  for  all  the  harm  they  do,  and  for  all  the  good 
they  do  not,  whilst  they  are  also  blamed  for  their  obscu- 
rity, poverty,  and  misfortunes. 

(23.)  The  great  think  it  too  much  condescension  to 
have  the  same  religion  and  the  same  God  as  the  common 
people,  for  how  can  they  be  called  Peter,  John,  or  James, 
as  any  tradesman  or  labourer  ?  Let  us  avoid,  they 
say,  to  have  anything  in  common  with  the  multitude  ; 
let  us  affect,  on  the  contrary',  a  distinction  which  may 
separate  us  from  them  ;  the  people  are  welcome  to  the 
twelve  apostles,  their  disciples,  and  the  first  martyrs,  fit 
patrons  for  such  folks  ;  let  them  every  year  rejoice  on 
some  saint's  day,  which  each  celebrates  as  if  it  were  his 


OF    THE    GREAT.  229 

birthday  ;  ^  but  for  us  great  people,  let  us  have  recourse 
to  profane  names,  and  be  baptized  by  such  patronymics 
as  Hannibal,  Cicsar,  and  Pompey,  for  they  were  indeed 
great  men  ;  by  that  of  Lucretia,  for  she  was  an  illus- 
trious Roman  lady  ;  or  by  those  of  Rinaldo,  Rogero, 
Oliviero,  and  Tancredo,^  who  were  paladins  and  among 
the  most  marvellous  heroes  of  romance  ;  by  those  of 
Hector,  Achilles,  or  Hercules,  all  demi-gods  :  even  by 
those  of  Phoebus  and  Diana  ;  and  who  shall  prevent 
us  from  caUing  ourselves  Jupiter,  Mercury,  Venus,  or 
Adonis  ?  ^ 

(24.)  While  the  great  neglect  to  become  acquainted 
not  only  with  the  interests  of  their  princes  and  with 
public  affairs,  but  with  their  own,  while  they  ignore  how 
to  govern  a  household  or  a  family,  boast  of  this  very 
ignorance,  and  are  impoverished  and  ruled  by  their 
agents,  while  they  are  satisfied  with  being  dainty  in  eat- 
ing and  drinking,^  with  visiting  Thais  and  Phryne,^  talking 
of  various  packs  of  hounds,  telling  how  many  stages 
there  are  between  Paris  and  Besangon  or  Philipsburg,^ 

1  It  is  even  now  usual  for  strict  Roman  Catholics  abroad  to  celebrate  the 
day  of  the  saint  after  which  they  are  named,  instead  of  the  day  on  which 
they  are  born. 

2  Rinaldo  is  the  Achilles  of  the  Christian  army  in  Tasso's  "Jerusalem 
Delivered,"  and  the  rival  of  Orlando  in  Ariosto's  "  Orlando  Furioso  ;  "  the 
second  is  the  true  hero  of  the  latter  poem,  the  third  the  friend  and  com- 
panion of  Orlando,  and  the  fourth  the  greatest  of  the  Christian  warriors 
except  Rinaldo,  in  Tasso's. poem,  already  mentioned. 

3  Among  the  great  there  were  such  names  as  Tancrede  de  Rohan,  Hercule 
de  Fleury,  Achille  de  Harlay,  Phe'bus  de  Foix,  Cyrus  de  Brion,  etc.  ;  even 
citizens  took  grand  classical  or  romantic  names. 

♦  The  original  has  cdteaux,  most  probably  because  some  noblemen  only 
drank  certain  wines  which  grew  on  some  hill-slopes,  called  cdteaux  in 
French. 

*  Thais,  an  Athenian  courtesan,  mentioned  in  Dryden's  "Alexander's 
Feast;"  Phryne  was  another  Athenian  courtesan,  said  to  have  been  Apelles' 
model. 

8  Philipsburg,  .in  ancient  fortified  town  of  the  Grand  Duchy  of  Baden,  had 
been  taken  by  the  Dauphin  in  1688,  after  a  month's  siege. 


230  OF   THE   GREAT. 

some  citizens  instruct  themselves  in  what  is  going  on 
within  and  without  the  kingdom,  study  the  art  of  govern- 
ment, become  shrewd  politicians,  are  acquainted  with 
the  strength  and  weakness  of  an  entire  state,  think  of 
bettering  their  position,  obtain  a  place,  rise,  become 
powerful,  and  relieve  their  prince  of  a  portion  of  the 
cares  of  state.  The  great,  who  disdained  them,  now 
respect  them,  and  think  themselves  fortunate  in  being 
accepted  as  their  sons-in-law.  ^ 

(25.)  If  I  compare  the  two  most  opposite  conditions 
of  men,  I  mean  the  great  and  the  common  people,  the 
latter  appear  satisfied  if  they  only  have  the  necessities 
of  life,  and  the  former  fretful  and  poor  amidst  super- 
fluities. A  man  of  the  people  can  do  no  harm  ;  a  great 
man  will  do  no  good,  and  is  capable  of  doing  great  mis- 
chief; the  first  only  plans  and  practises  useful  things,  the 
second  adds  to  them  what  is  hurtful.  Here  rusticity  and 
frankness  show  themselves  ingenuously ;  there  a  malig- 
nant and  corrupt  disposition  lies  hidden  under  a  veneer 
of  politeness.  If  the  common  people  have  scarcely  any 
culture,  the  great  have  no  soul ;  the  first  have  a  good 
foundation  and  no  outward  appearances  ;  the  latter  are 
all  outward  appearance  and  but  a  mere  superstratum. 
Were  I  to  choose  between  the  two,  I  should  select,  with- 
out hesitation,  being  a  plebeian. 

(26.)  However  able  the  great  at  court  may  be,  and 
whatever  skill  they  may  possess  in  appearing  what  they 
are  not,  and  in  not  appearing  what  they  are,  they  cannot 
conceal  their  malice  and  their  inclination  to  make  fun 
of  other  people,  and  often  to  render  a  person  ridiculous 


1  Among  the  citizens  who  had  "  become  powerful "  may  be  reckoned 
J.  B.  Colbert  (see  page  132,  note),  whose  three  daughters  married  dukes, 
and  whose  son  married  a  relative  of  the  Bourbon  family. 


OF   THE   GREAT.  23! 

who  is  not  really  so.  These  fine  talents  are  discovered  in 
them  at  the  first  glance,  and  are  admirable  without  doubt 
to  ensnare  a  dupe  or  make  a  fool  of  a  man  who  already 
was  one,  but  are  still  better  suited  to  deprive  them  of  the 
pleasure  they  might  receive  from  a  person  of  intelligence, 
who  knows  how  to  vary  and  adapt  his  conversation  in 
a  thousand  agreeable  and  pleasant  ways,  and  would  do  so, 
if  the  dangerous  inclination  of  a  courtier  to  ridicule  any 
one  did  not  induce  him  to  be  very  reserved  ;  he,  there- 
fore, assumes  a  grave  air,  and  so  effectively  entrenches 
himself  behind  it,  that  the  jokers,  ill  disposed  as  they 
are,  cannot  find  an  opportunity  of  making  fun  of  him. 

(27.)  Ease,  affluence,  and  a  smooth  and  prosperous 
career  are  the  cause  why  princes  can  take  some  delight 
in  laughing  at  a  dwarf,  a  monkey,  an  imbecile,  or  a 
wretched  story ;  men  less  fortunate  never  laugh  but 
when  they  ought  to. 

(28.)  A  great  man  loves  champagne  and  hates  wine 
from  La  Brie  ;  he  gets  intoxicated  with  better  wine  than 
a  man  of  the  people  ;  and  this  is  the  only  difference 
between  orgies  in  the  two  most  opposite  conditions  of 
life,  that  of  a  lord  and  of  a  footman. 

(29.)  It  would  seem,  at  the  first  glance,  that  the 
pleasures  of  princes  always  are  a  little  seasoned  with  the 
pleasure  of  inconveniencing  other  people.  But  this  is 
not  so  ;  princes  are  like  other  men  ;  they  only  think  of 
themselves,  and  follow  their  own  inclinations,  passions, 
and  convenience,  which  is  quite  natural. 

(30.)  One  would  think  that  the  first  rule  of  companies, 
of  people  in  office  and  in  power,  is  to  provide  those  who 
depend  on  them  in  their  business  with  as  many  obstruc- 
tions as  they  dread  those  dependants  might  place  in 
their  way. 


232  OF   THE   GREAT. 

(31.)  I  cannot  imagine  in  what  a  great  man  is 
happier  than  others,  except  perhaps  in  having  more 
often  the  power  as  well  as  the  opportunity  of  rendering 
a  service  ;  and  if  such  an  opportunity'  occurs,  it  seems  to 
me  that  by  all  means  he  ought  to  embrace  it.  If  it  is 
for  an  honest  man,  he  should  be  afraid  of  letting  it  slip  ; 
but  as  it  is  right  to  act  thus,  he  should  forestall  any  soli- 
citation, and  not  be  seen  until  thanks  are  due  to  him  for 
his  success  :  if  it  is  an  easy  thing  to  render  such  a  ser- 
vice, he  should  not  set  any  value  on  it  ;  if  he  refuses  to 
assist  this  honest  man,  I  pity  them  both. 

(32.)  Some  men  are  bom  inaccessible,  and  yet  these 
are  the  very  men  of  whom  others  stand  in  need,  and  on 
whom  they  depend ;  they  move  about  continually,  are 
as  restless  as  quicksilver,  turn  on  their  heels,  gesticulate, 
shout,  and  are  always  in  motion.  Like  those  cardboard 
temples  erected  for  fireworks  during  public  festivals, 
they  scatter  fire  and  flames,  thunder  and  lightning ; 
and  there  is  no  approaching  them  until  they  are  extin- 
guished and  have  fallen  do\vn,  and  then  only  they  can  be 
handled,  but  are  of  no  more  use,  and  good  for  nothing. 

(33.)  A  Swiss  hall-porter,  a  valet-de-chambre,  a  foot- 
man, if  they  have  no  more  sense  than  belongs  to  their 
station  in  life,  do  no  longer  estimate  themselves  by  the 
meanness  of  their  condition,  but  by  the  rank  and  fortime 
of  those  whom  they  serve,  and  without  discrimination 
think  that  all  people  who  enter  by  the  door  or  ascend 
the  staircase  where  they  are  in  waiting  are  inferior  to 
them  and  their  masters ;  so  true  is  it  that  we  are 
doomed  to  suffer  from  the  great  and  from  all  who 
belong  to  them.^ 

•  La  Bruyere  had,  no  doubt,  experienced  this  when   at    the  Duke   de 
Conde's. 


OF   THE    GREAT.  233 

(34.)  A  man  in  office  ought  to  love  his  prince,  his 
wife,  his  children,  and,  next  to  them,  men  of  intelligence  ; 
he  ought  to  befriend  them,  surround  himself  with  them, 
and  never  be  without  them  ;  he  cannot  repay,  I  will  not 
say  with  too  many  pensions  or  kindnesses,  but  with  too 
great  an  intimacy  and  too  many  demonstrations  of 
friendship,  the  assistance  and  the  services  they  render 
him  even  when  he  does  not  suspect  it.  What  rumours 
do  they  not  scatter  to  the  winds  ?  How  many  stories 
do  they  not  prove  to  be  but  fable  and  fiction  ?  How 
well  do  they  understand  to  justify  want  of  success  by 
good  intentions,  and  demonstrate  the  soundness  of  a 
project  and  the  correctness  of  certain  measures  by  a 
prosperous  issue  ;  raise  their  voices  against  malice  and 
envy,  and  prove  that  good  enterprises  proceed  from 
the  best  of  motives  ;  put  a  favourable  construction  on 
wretched  appearances,  palliate  slight  faults,  exhibit  only 
virtues  and  place  them  in  the  best  light ;  spread  on 
innumerable  occasions  a  report  of  facts  and  details  which 
redound  to  their  patron's  honour,  and  make  a  jest  of 
thosfe  who  dare  doubt  it  or  advance  anything  to  the 
contrary.  I  know  it  is  a  maxim  with  great  men  to  let 
people  speak,  while  they  themselves  continue  to  act  as 
they  think  fit ;  but  I  also  know  that  it  not  seldom  hap- 
pens that  their  carelessness  in  paying  attention  to  what 
people  say  of  them  prevents  them  from  performing  the 
actions  they  intended. 

(35.)  To  be  sensible  of  merit,  and,  when  known,  to 
treat  it  well,  are  two  great  steps  quickly  to  be  taken 
one  after  another,  but  of  which  few  great  men  are  cap- 
able. 

(36.)  You  are  great,  you  are  powerful,  but  this  is  not 
enough  ;  act  in  such  a  manner  that  I  can  esteem  you. 


234  OF   THE   GREAT. 

SO  that  I  should  be  sorry  to  lose  your  favour,  or  sorry 
I  was  never  able  to  obtain  it. 

(37.)  You  say  of  a  great  man  or  of  a  person  in  office, 
that  he  is  very  obliging,  kind,  and  delights  in  being 
serviceable ;  and  you  confirm  this  by  giving  details  of 
everything  he  has  done  in  a  certain  business,  in  which 
he  knew  you  took  some  interest.  I  understand  what  you 
mean  ;  you  succeed  without  any  solicitation,  you  have 
influence,  you  are  known  to  the  ministers  of  state,  you 
stand  well  with  the  great.  What  else  would  you  have 
me  understand  ? 

A  man  tells  you,  "  I  think  I  am  not  very  well  treated 
by  a  certain  personage ;  he  has  become  proud  since  he 
has  bettered  his  position  ;  he  treats  me  with  contempt 
and  no  longer  knows  me."  You  answer,  "  I  have  no 
reason  to  complain  of  him  ;  on  the  contrary,  I  must 
commend  him  ;  he  even  seems  to  me  to  be  very  civil." 
I  believe  I  understand  you  too.  You  would  let  us  know 
that  some  person  in  office  has  a  regard  for  you,  that  in 
the  anteroom  he  selects  you  from  a  large  number  of 
cultured  gentlemen  from  whom  he  turns  aside,  to  avoid 
the  inconvenience  of  bowing  to  them  or  smiling  on  them. 

"  To  commend  some  one,  to  commend  some  great 
man,"  is  a  nice  phrase  to  start  with,  and  which  doubt- 
less means  to  commend  ourselves,  when  we  relate  all 
the  good  some  great  man  has  done  to  us,  or  never 
thought  of  doing  to  us. 

We  praise  the  great  to  show  we  are  intimate  with 
them,  rarely  out  of  esteem  or  gratitude ;  we  often  do 
not  know  the  persons  we  praise  ;  vanity  and  levity  not 
seldom  prevail  over  resentment ;  we  are  very  dissatis- 
fied 1  with  them,  and  yet  we  praise  them. 

1  The  original  has  tnal  content,  for,  during  the  seventeenth  century,  mal 


OF   THE   GREAT,  235 

(38.)  If  it  is  dangerous  to  be  concerned  in  a  sus- 
picious affair,  it  is  much  more  so  when  you  are  an 
accomplice  of  the  great ;  they  will  get  clear  and  leave 
you  to  pay  double,  and  for  them  and  for  yourself.  ^ 

(39.)  A  prince's  fortune  is  not  large  enough  to  pay 
a  man  for  a  base  complacency,  if  he  considers  what  it 
costs  the  man  whom  he  would  reward ;  and  all  his 
power  is  not  sufficient  to  punish  him,  if  he  measures  the 
punishment  by  the  injury  done  to  him. 

(40.)  The  nobility  expose  their  lives  for  the  safety 
of  the  state  and  the  glory  of  their  sovereign,  and  the 
magistrates  relieve  the  prince  of  part  of  the  burden  of 
administering  justice  to  his  people.  Both  these  functions 
are  sublime  and  of  great  use,  and  men  are  scarcely  capable 
of  performing  higher  duties  ;  but  why  men  of  the  robe 
and  the  sword  reciprocally  despise  each  other  is  beyond 
my  comprehension, 

(41.)  If  it  be  true  that  the  great  venture  more  in 
risking  their  lives,  destined  to  be  spent  in  gaiety,  plea- 
sure, and  plenty,  than  a  private  person  who  ventures 
only  a  life  that  is  wretched,  it  must  also  be  confessed 
that  they  receive  a  wholly  different  compensation,  namely, 
glory  and  a  grand  reputation.  The  common  soldier 
entertains  no  thoughts  of  becoming  known,  and  dies 
unnoticed,  among  many  others  ;  he  lived  indeed  very 
much  in  the  same  way,  but  still  he  was  alive  ;  this  is 
one  of  the  chief  causes  of  the  want  of  courage  in  people 
of  low  and  servile  condition.  On  the  contrary,  those  per 
sonages  whose  birth  distinguishes  them  from  the  common 

was  more  generally  placed  before  an  adjective  than  now  ;  at  present  mi- 
content  would  be  used,  which,  when  La  Bruyere  wrote,  had  often  the  mean- 
ing of  "a  rebel." 

1  Gaston  d'Orleans  (1608-1660),  the  brother  of  Louis  XIII.,  and  even  the 
Prince  de  Conde  were  examples  of  such  "  great." 


236  OF   THE   GREAT. 

people,  and  who  are  exposed  to  the  gaze  of  all  men,  to 
their  censures  and  praises,  exert  themselves  more  than 
they  were  predisposed  to  do,  even  if  they  are  not 
naturally  courageous  ;  ^  and  this  elevation  of  heart  and 
mind,  which  they  derive  from  their  ancestors,  is  the 
cause  of  courage  being  usually  found  among  persons  of 
noble  birth,  and  is  perhaps  nobility  itself. 

Press  me  into  the  service  as  a  common  soldier,  I  am 
Thersites  ;  put  me  at  the  head  of  an  army  for  which 
I  am  responsible  to  the  whole  of  Europe,  and  I  am 
Achilles.  2 

(42.)  Princes,  without  any  science  or  rules,  can  form 
a  judgment  by  comparison  ;  they  are  born  and  brought 
up  amidst  the  best  things,  with  which  they  compare 
what  they  read,  see,  and  hear.  Whoever  does  not 
approach  Lulli,  Racine,  and  Le  Brun  ^  they  condemn. 

(43.)  To  talk  to  young  princes  of  nothing  but  their 
rank  is  an  excess  of  precaution,  while  all  courtiers  con- 
sider it  their  duty  and  part  and  parcel  of  their  politeness 
to  respect  them ;  so  that  they  are  less  apt  to  ignore  the 
regard  due  to  their  birth  than  to  confound  persons, 
and  treat  all  sorts  of  ranks  and  conditions  of  men  indif- 
ferently, or  without  distinction.  They  have  an  innate 
pride  which  they  show  when  needed  ;  they  only  have 
to  be  taught  how  to  regulate  it,  and  how  to  acquire  kind- 
ness of  heart,  culture,  gentlemanly  manners,  and  sound 
discrimination. 

1  The  original  has  vertu,  in  the  sense  of  the  Latin  virtus,  courage. . 

2  Thersites,  according  to  the  Iliad,  was  squinting,  humpbacked,  loqua- 
cious, loud,  coarse,  and  scurrilous,  but  he  was  not  a  "  common  soldier," 
but  a  chief.  Achilles  was  the  hero  of  the  allied  Greek  army  besieging 
Troy. 

3  Le  Brun  (1616-1690),  a  celebrated  painter,  was  still  alive  when  this 
paragraph  appeared.  For  Lulli  and  Racine,  see  page  46,  note,  and  page  11, 
note  3.     Compare  also  page  226,  §  19. 


Vu^/tt^^/^'-'  ' 


LE    BRUN 


OF   THE   GREAT,  237 

(44.)  It  is  downright  hypocrisy  in  a  man  of  a  certain 
position  not  at  once  to  take  the  rank  due  to  him,  and 
which  every  one  is  willing  to  yield ;  he  need  not  trouble 
himself  to  be  modest,  to  mingle  with  the  crowd  that 
opens  and  makes  way  for  him,  to  take  the  lowest  seat 
at  a  public  meeting,  so  that  every  one  may  see  him  there 
and  run  to  lead  him  to  a  higher  place.  Modesty  in  men 
of  ordinary  condition  is  more  trying  ;  if  they  push  them- 
selves into  a  crowd,  they  are  almost  crushed  to  death, 
and  if  they  choose  an  uncomfortable  seat,  they  may 
remain  there.  ^ 

(45.)  Aristarchus  hies  to  the  market-place  with  a 
herald  and  a  trumpeter,  who  blows  on  his  instrument,  so 
that  a  crowd  comes  running  and  gathers  round  him  : 
"  Oyez  !  Oyez !  people !  "  2  exclaims  the  herald,  "  be  atten- 
tive ;  silence  !  silence  !  This  very  Aristarchus,  whom  you 
see  before  you,  is  to  do  a  good  action  to-morrow."  I 
would  have  said,  in  more  simple  and  less  ornate  style  : 
"Aristarchus  has  done  well;  is  he  now  going  to  do 
better  ?  If  so,  let  me  not  know  that  he  does  well,  or 
at  least  let  me  not  suspect  that  I  should  be  told  it."  ^ 

(46.)  The  best  actionsof  men  are  spoiled  and  weakened 
by  their  manner  of  doing  them,  which  sometimes  leaves 
even  a  suspicion  of  the  purity  of  their  intentions.  Who- 
ever protects  or  commends  virtue  for  virtue's  sake,  or 


1  AcKille  de  Harlay  (1639-1712),  President  of  the  Parliament  of  Paris,  and 
descended  from  an  illustrious  line  of  magistrates,  is  said  to  have  feigned 
an  excess  of  modesty  which  was  not  natural  to  him.  See  also  page  45, 
note  I. 

2  This  beginning  of  every  English  town-crier's  oration,  pronounced  "Oh 
yes  !  Oh  yes  !  "  is  merely  the  imperative  of  the  defective  French  verb,  ouir, 
"  to  hear,"  now  seldom  used,  except  in  the  present  infinitive  and  in  pro- 
verbial phrases. 

3  Aristarchus  also  refers  to  the  above  Pre^^ident,  whose  liberality,  according 
to  public  rumour,  was  somewhat  ostentatious. 


238  OF   THE    GREAT. 

condemns  and  blames  vice  for  the  sake  of  vice,  acts  with- 
out design,  naturally,  without  any  artifice  or  peculiarity, 
pomp  or  affectation  ;  he  neither  replies  demurely  and  sen- 
tentiously,  and  still  less  makes  sharp  and  satirical  re- 
marks ;  1  he  never  acts  a  part  for  the  benefit  of  the  public, 
but  he  shows  a  good  example  and  acquits  himself  of  his 
duty  ;  he  is  not  a  subject  to  be  talked  about  when  ladies 
\-isit  one  another,  nor  for  the  cabinet,-  nor  amongst  the 
newsmongers  ;  ^  he  does  not  provide  an  amusing  gentle- 
man with  a  subject  for  a  funny  story.  The  good  he 
does  is,  indeed,  a  little  less  known,  but  good  he  does, 
and  what  more  could  he  desire  ? 

(47.)  The  great  ought  not  to  like  the  early  ages  of 
the*  world,  for  they  are  not  favourable  to  them,  and  they 
must  feel  mortified  to  see  that  we  are  all  descended  from 
one  brother  and  sister.  All  mankind  form  but  one 
family,  and  the  whole  difference  is  merely  in  the  nearer 
or  more  remote  degree  of  relationship. 

(48.)  Theognis*  is  very  dandified  in  his  dress,  and 
goes  abroad  decked  out  like  a  lady  ;  he  is  scarcely  out 
of  the  house,  and  already  his  looks  and  countenance 
are  arranged  in  a  studied  manner,  so  that  he  is  fit  to 
appear  in  public,  and  that  the  passers-by  may  behold 
him  gracefully  bestowing  his  smiles  on  them.  If  he 
enters  any  apartments  at  court,  he  turns  to  the  right, 
where  there  is  a  large  number  of  people,  and   to  the 


1  Another  allusion  to  M.  de  Harlay,  whose  "  wise  saws  and  modem  say- 
ings" were  proverbial. 

2  A  cabinet  was  a  sort  of  social  circle  in  Paris,  where  people  generally 
met  to  exchange  small  talk  and  to  hear  the  news  or  lectures  on  all  subjects. 

3  See  page  19,  note  3. 

*  M.  de  Harlay  (1625-1695),  Archbishop  of  Paris,  is  said  to  have  been  the 
original  of  Theognis.  (See  page  46,  §  26.)  He  was  the  nephew  of  the  Pre- 
sident meutioned  on  the  previous  page,  note  x. 


OF    THE    GREAT.  239 

left,  where  there  are  none  ;  he  bows  to  those  who  are 
there  and  to  those  who  are  not ;  he  embraces  the  first 
man  he  meets,  presses  his  head  against  his  bosom,  and 
then  asks  his  name.  Some  one  wants  his  assistance 
in  a  very  easy  matter  of  business  ;  he  waits  on  Theognis, 
and  presents  his  request,  to  which  the  latter  kindly 
listens,  is  delighted  in  being  of  use  to  him,  and  en- 
treats him  to  procure  him  opportunities  of  serving  him  ; 
but  when  the  other  comes  to  the  point,  Theognis  tells 
him  it  lies  not  in  his  power  to  help  him,  begs  him  to 
fancy  himself  in  his  position,  and  to  judge  for  himself. 
The  postulant  leaves,  is  seen  to  the  door  and  caressed  by 
Theognis,  and  becomes  so  embarrassed  that  he  is  almost 
satisfied  with  his  request  being  refused. 

(49.)  A  man  must  have  a  very  bad  opinion  of  man- 
kind and  yet  know  them  well  to  believe  he  can  impose 
on  them  with  studied  demonstrations  of  friendship  and 
long  and  useless  embraces. 

(50.)  Pamphilus  1  does  not  converse  with  the  people 
he  meets  in  the  apartments  at  court  or  in  the  public 
walks  ;  but  some  persons  would  think  by  his  serious  mien 
and  his  loud  voice  that  he  admits  them  into  his  presence, 
gives  them  audience,  and  then  dismisses  them.  He  has 
a  stock  of  phrases,  at  once  civil  and  haughty  ;  an  im- 
perious, gentlemanly  kind  of  civility,  which  he  makes 
use  of  without  any  discrimination  ;  a  false  dignity  which 
debases  him,  and  is  very  troublesome  to  his  friends 
who  are  loth  to  despise  him. 

A  true  Pamphilus  is  full  of  his  own  merit,  keeps  him- 

1  Pamphilus  is  the  Marquis  de  Dang«au,  of  whom  we  have  already  spoken 
(see  page  156,  note  2),  and  who  made  himself  ridiculous  by  his  excessive 
vanity.  Saiiit-Sinion,  in  his  Memoires,  calls  the  Marquis  un  PamphiU,  but 
our  author  speaks  of  les  Pamphiles,  and  describes  them  at  three  different 
times,  namely,  in  1681,  1691,  and  1692. 


240  OF   THE    GREAT. 

self  always  in  view,  and  never  forgets  his  ideas  about 
his  grandeur,  alliances,  office,  and  dignity ;  he  takes 
everything  belonging  to  his  escutcheon,  and  produces  it 
when  he  w^ants  to  show  off;  he  speaks  of  his  order  and 
his  blue  ribbon, ^  which  he  displays  or  hides  with  equal 
ostentation.  A  Pamphilus,  in  a  word,  would  be  a  great 
man,  and  believes  he  is  one ;  but  he  really  is  not,  and  is  only 
an  imitation  one.  If  at  any  time  he  smiles  on  a  person  of 
the  lower  orders,  or  a  man  of  intelligence,  he  chooses 
his  time  so  well  that  he  is  never  caught  in  the  fact ;  and 
were  he  unfortunately  caught  in  the  least  familiarity 
with  a  person  neither  rich,  powerful,  nor  the  friend  of  a 
minister  of  state,  his  relative,  nor  one  of  his  household,^ 
he  would  blush  up  to  his  ears  ;  he  is  very  severe,  and 
shows  no  mercy  to  a  man  who  has  not  yet  made  his 
fortune.  One  day  he  sees  you  in  a  public  walk  and 
avoids  you  ;  the  next  day  he  meets  you  in  a  less  public 
place,  or,  if  it  be  public,  in  the  company  of  some  great 
man,  and  he  takes  courage,  comes  up  to  you,  and  says, 
"  Yesterday  you  pretended  not  to  see  me."  Sometimes 
he  will  leave  you  abruptly  to  go  and  speak  to  some  lord 
and  to  the  secretary  of  some  minister,^  and  sometimes, 
finding  that  you  are  in  conversation  with  them,  he  will 
pass  between  you  and  them"*  and  take  them  away.  Meet 
him  at  any  other  time  and  he  will  not  stop  j  you  must 


1  See  page  47,  note  3.  When  this  paragraph  appeared,  the  Marquis  de 
Dangeau  had  been  already  three  years  a  Knight  of  the  Order  of  the  Holy 
Ghost.  The  knights  of  this  order  wore  a  cross  hanging  from  a  broad  blue 
ribbon,  which  were  both  depicted  around  their  escutcheon. 

2  See  page  70,  note  i. 

3  Such  an  official  was  in  our  author's  time  called  U pretnier  commis. 

*  The  original  has  il  vous  coupe,  "he  will  cut  you,"  an  expression  also 
used  by  Saint-Simon  and  Madame  de  Sevigne  ;  the  English  phrase  "  to  cut 
a  person,"  in  the  sense  of  passing  by  him  without  pretending  to  see  him, 
seems  almost  to  have  the  same  primary  meaning. 


OF   THE    GREAT.  24 1 

run  and  then  he'll  speak  so  loud  as  to  expose  you  and 
him  to  all  within  hearing.  Thus  the  Pamphiluses  live,  as 
it  were,  always  on  a  stage  ;  they  are  a  class  nurtured  in 
dissimulation,  who  hate  nothing  more  than  to  be  natural, 
and  who  are  real  actors  as  much  as  ever  Floridor  and 
Mondori  ^  were. 

We  can  never  say  enough  of  the  Pamphiluses  ;  they 
are  servile  and  timorous  before  princes  and  ministers  ; 
proud  and  overbearing  to  people  who  are  merely  virtu- 
ous ;  dumbfounded  and  embarrassed  before  the  learned  ; 
brisk,  forward,  and  positive  before  the  ignorant.  They 
talk  of  war  to  a  lawyer  and  of  politics  to  a  financier ; 
they  pretend  to  know  history  among  women,  are  poets 
jarriong  doctors,  and  mathematicians  among  poets.  They 
do  not  trouble  themselves  about  maxims,  and  less  about 
principles  ;  they  live  at  random,  are  wafted  onward  and 
carried  away  by  a  blast  of  favour  and  the  attractions  of 
wealth;  they  have  no  feelings  of  their  own,  but  they 
borrow  them  as  they  want  them,  and  the  person  to  whom 
they  apply  is  neither  a  wise,  able,  nor  virtuous  man,  but 
a  man  of  fashion. 

(51,)  We  nourish  a  fruitless  jealousy  and  an  impotent 
hatred  against  the  great  and  men  in  power,  which,  in- 
stead of  avenging  us  for  their  splendour  and  position, 
only  adds  to  our  own  misery  the  galling  load  of  another's 
happiness.  What  is  to  be  done  against  such  an  in- 
veterate and  contagious  disease  of  the  mind  ?  Let  us 
be  satisfied  with  little,  and,  if  possible,  with  less  ;  let  us 
learn  to  bear  those  losses  which  may  occur ;  the  pre- 
scription is  infallible,  and  I  will  try  it.  Then  I  shall 
refrain  from  bribing  a  doorkeeper  or  from  mollifying  a 

1  Two  celebrated  actors  of  the  seventeenth  century  ;  Floridor,  whose  real 
name  was  Josias  Soulas  de  Frinefosse,  died  in  1672,  and  Mondori  in  1651. 

Q 


242  OF   THE   GREAT. 

secretary  ;  ^  from  being  driven  from  the  door  by  a  large 
crowd  of  candidates  and  courtiers  which  a  minister's 
house  2  disgorges  several  times  a  day ;  from  repining  in 
an  ante-chamber,  from  presenting  to  him,  whilst  trembling 
and  stammering,  a  well-founded  request ;  from  bearing 
with  his  stateliness,  his  bitter  laugh,  and  his  laconism. 
Now  I  neither  hate  nor  envy  him  any  more  ;  he  begs 
nothing  of  me,  nor  I  of  him  ;  we  stand  on  the  same  foot- 
ing, unless  perhaps  that  he  is  never  at  rest,  and  that 
I  am. 

(52.)  If  the  great  have  frequent  opportunities  of  doing 
us  good,  they  seldom  wish  to  do  so  ;  and  if  they  wanted 
to  injure  us  it  lies  not  always  in  their  power ;  therefore 
the  sort  of  worship  we  pay  them  may  frustrate  our 
expectations,  if  rendered  from  other  motives  but  hope  or 
fear.  A  man  may  sometimes  live  a  long  while  without 
depending  on  them  in  the  least,  or  being  indebted  to 
them  for  his  good  or  bad  fortune.  We  ought  to  honour 
them,  as  they  are  great  and  we  little,  and  because  there 
are  others  less  than  ourselves  who  honour  us. 

(53.)  The  same  passions,  the  same  weaknesses,  the 
same  meannesses,  the  same  eccentricities,  the  same 
quarrels  in  families  and  among  relatives,  the  same 
jealousies  and  antipathies  prevail  at  court  and  in  town.^ 
You  find  everywhere  daughters-in-law,  mothers-in-law, 
husbands  and  wives  ;  divorces,  separations,  and  patched- 
up  reconciliations  ;  everywhere  fancies,  fits  of  passion, 
partialities,  tittle-tattle,  and  what  is  called  evil-talking. 
An  observer  would  easily  imagine  that  the  inhabitants  of 


1  See  page  240,  note  3. 

2  This  minister  is  said  to  have  been  Louvois  (see  page  204,^note  2),  who 
liked  to  have  many  postulants  about  him. 

3  See  page  164,  note  i. 


OF   THE   GREAT.  243 

a  small  town  or  of  the  Rue  Saint-Denis  were  transported 
to  V  ...  or  to  F  ..  .1  In  these  two  last  places  people 
display,  perhaps,  more  pride,  haughtiness,  and  perhaps 
more  decorum  in  hating  one  another  ;  they  injure  one 
another  with  more  skill  and  refinement  ;  their  outbursts  of 
rage  are  more  eloquent,  and  they  insult  one  another  with 
more  politeness  and  in  a  more  select  phraseology  ;  they 
do  not  defile  the  purity  of  the  language,  they  only  offend 
men  or  blast  their  reputations ;  the  outside  of  vice  is 
handsome,  but  in  reality,  I  say  it  again,  it  is  the  same  as 
in  the  most  abject  conditions,  for  whatever  is  base,  weak, 
and  worthless  is  found  there.  These  men  so  eminent  by 
their  birth,  by  favour,  or  by  their  position,  these  minds 
so  powerful  and  so  sagacious,  these  women  so  polished 
and  so  witty,  are  themselves  but  common  people,  though 
they  despise  common  people. 

The  words  "  common  people  "  include  several  things  ; 
they  are  a  comprehensive  expression,  and  we  may  be 
surprised  to  see  what  they  contain  and  how  far  they 
extend.  The  common  people,  in  opposition  to  the  great, 
signify  the  mob  and  the  multitude  ;  but,  as  opposed  to 
wise,  able,  and  virtuous  men,  they  include  the  great  as 
well  as  the  little. 

(54.)  The  great  are  governed  by  sensations  ;  their 
minds  are  unoccupied,  and  everything  makes  immediately 
a  strong  impression  on  them.  If  anything  happens,  they 
talk  about  it  too  much  ;  soon  after  they  talk  about  it  but 
little,  and  then  not  at  all,  nor  ever  will  ;  actions,  conduct, 
execution,  incidents  are  all  forgotten  ;  expect  from  them 


1  The  Rue  Saint-Denis  was  a  street  in  Paris  crowded  with  small  trades- 
men, and  still  exists.  Our  author  was  nearly  always  afraid  of  clearly  men- 
tioning  Versailles  or  Fontainebleau,  and  very  often  employed  only  the 
initial  letters  and  asterisks  or  dots. 


244  OF   THE   GREAT, 

neither  amendment,  foresight,  reflection,  gratitude,  nor 
reward, 

(55)  We  are  led  to  two  opposite  extremes  with  regard 
to  certain  persons.  After  their  death  satires  about  them 
are  current  among  the  people,  while  the  churches  re-echo 
with  their  praises.  Sometimes  they  deserve  neither 
those  libels  nor  these  funeral  orations,  and  sometimes 
both. 

(56,)  The  less  we  talk  of  the  great  and  powerful  the 
better ;  if  we  say  any  good  of  them,  it  is  often  almost 
flattery ;  it  is  dangerous  to  speak  ill  of  them  whilst  they 
are  alive,  and  cowardly  when  they  are  dead. 


XL 


OF  THE  SOVEREIGN  AND  THE  STATE.i 


(i.)  '\17'HEN  we  have  cursorily  examined  all  forms  of 
government  without  partiality  to  the  one  of 
our  fatherland,  we  cannot  decide  which  to  choose ;  they 
are  all  a  mixture  of  good  and  evil ;  it  is,  therefore,  most 
reasonable  to  value  that  of  our  native  land  above  all 
others,  and  to  submit  to  it. 

(2.)  Tyranny  has  no  need  of  arts  or  sciences,  for  its 
policy,  which  is  very  shallow  and  without  any  refinement, 
only  consists  in  shedding  blood ;  it  prompts  us  to  murder 

1  The  original  ripubliqrte,  which  was  inserted  for  the  first  time  in  the 
fourth  edition  of  the  "  C^haracters,"  is  used  in  the  sense  of  the  Latin 
respublica. 


246  OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND   THE    STATE. 

every  one  whose  life  is  an  obstacle  to  our  ambition ;  and 
a  man  naturally  cruel  has  no  diflSculty  in  doing  this.  It 
is  the  most  detestable  and  barbarous  \yay  of  maintain- 
ing power  and  of  aggrandisement. 

(3.)  It  is  a  sure  and  ancient  maxim  in  politics  that 
to  allow  the  people  to  be  lulled  by  festivals,  spectacles, 
luxury,  pomp,  pleasures,  vanity,  and  effeminacy,  to 
occupy  their  minds  with  worthless  things,  and  to  let 
them  relish  trifling  frivolities,  is  efficiently  preparing  the 
way  for  a  despotism. 

(4.)  Under  a  despotic  government  the  love  for  one's 
native  land  does  not  exist ;  self-interest,  glory,  and  serv- 
ing the  prince  supply  its  place. 

(5.)  To  innovate  or  introduce  any  alterations  in  a 
state  is  more  a  question  of  time  than  of  action  ;  on 
some  occasions  it  would  be  injudicious  to  attempt  any- 
thing against  the  liberties  of  the  people,  and  on  others 
it  is  evident  that  everything  may  be  ventured  on.  To- 
day you  may  subvert  the  freedom,  rights,  and  privileges 
of  a  certain  town,  and  to-morrow  you  must  not  so  much 
as  think  of  altering  the  signboards  of  their  shops. ^ 

(6.)  In  public  commotions  we' cannot  understand  how 
the  people  can  ever  be  appeased,  nor  in  quiet  times  ima- 
gine as  little  what  can  disturb  them. 

(7.)  A  government  connives  at  certain  evils  in  order 
to  repress  or  prevent  greater  ones.  There  are  others 
which  are  only  evils  because  they  originally  sprang  from 

1  During  the  reign  of  Louis  XIV.,  the  signboards,  which  were  often 
very  large,  swung  above  the  heads  of  the  passers-by,  and  the  police  tried 
in  vain  to  reduce  their  dimensions  or  to  have  them  fixed  against  the  walls. 
Sometimes  the  government  interfered  in  the  municipal  or  provincial  elec- 
tions without  any  opposition,  and  sometimes  a  diminution  of  town  coun- 
cillors, or  a  promulgation  of  a  stamp  act  for  legal  documents,  was  violently 
resbted,  and  the  rebellion  had  to  be  quenched  by  an  armed  force,  as,  for 
example,  in  Guienne  and  Brittany  from  1673  till  i675. 


OF   THE   SOVEREIGN    AND   THE   STATE.  247 

abuses  or  bad  customs,  but  these  are  less  pernicious  in 
their  consequences  and  practice  than  would  be  a  juster 
law  or  a  more  reasonable  custom.  Some  kind  of  evils, 
which  indeed  are  very  dangerous,  are  curable  by  novelty 
and  change :  other  evils  are  hidden  and  under  ground, 
as  filth  in  a  common  sewer ;  these  are  buried  in  shame, 
secrecy,  and  obscurity,  and  cannot  be  stirred  up  or 
raked  about,  without  exhaling  poison  and  infamy ;  so. 
that  the  ablest  men  sometimes  doubt  whether  it  be  more 
judicious  to  take  notice  of  them  or  to  ignore  them. 
The  State  not  seldom  tolerates  a  comparatively  great 
evil  to  keep  out  millions  of  lesser  ills  and  inconveni- 
ences which  otherwise  would  be  inevitable  and  without 
remedy.  Some  there  are,i  which  are  greatly  complained 
of  by  private  persons,  but  which  tend  to  benefit  the 
public,  though  the  public  be  only  an  aggregate  of  those 
self-same  private  persons  ;  other  ills  a  person  suffers 
which  turn  to  the  good  and  advantage  of  every  house- 
hold ;  others,  again,  afiflict,  ruin,  and  dishonour  certain 
families,  but  tend  to  benefit  and  preserve  the  working  of 
the  machinery  of  the  State  and  of  the  government. 
Finally,  there  are  some  which  subvert  governments  and 
cause  fresh  ones  to  arise  on  their  ruins  ;  and  instances 
can  be  quoted  of  others  which  have  undermined  the 
foundations  of  great  empires,  and  utterly  destroyed 
them,  merely  to  diversify  and  renew  the  surface  of  the 
globe. 

(8.)  What  does  the  State  care  whether  Ergastes  be 
rich,  has  a  good  pack  of  hounds,  invents  new  fashions 
in  carriages  and  dress,  and  wantons  in  superfluities  ? 
Is  the  interest  of  a  private  person  to  be  considered 
when  the  interest  and  convenience  of  the  public  are  in 

1  Taxes  are  meant  here. 


248  OF   THE    SOVEREIGN   AND    THE    STATE. 

question  ?  When  the  burdens  of  the  people  weigh  a 
little  heavy,  it  is  some  comfort  for  them  to  know  that 
they  relieve  their  prince  and  enrich  him  alone  ;  but  they 
do  not  think  they  are  obliged  to  contribute  to  the  for- 
tune of  Ergastes. 

(9.)  Even  in  the  most  remote  antiquity,  and  in  all 
ages,  war  has  existed,  and  has  always  filled  the  world 
with  widows  and  orphans,  drained  families  of  heirs,  and 
destroyed  several  brothers  in  one  and  the  same  battle. 
Young  Soyecourt  !  ^  I  mourn  your  loss,  your  modesty, 
your  intelligence,  already  so  developed,  so  clear,  lofty, 
and  communicative  ;  I  bewail  that  untimely  death  which 
carried  you  off,  as  well  as  your  intrepid  brother,  and 
removed  you  from  a  court  where  you  had  barely  time  to 
show  yourself;  such  a  misfortune  is  not  uncommon,  but 
nevertheless  should  be  deplored !  In  every  age  men 
have  agreed  to  destroy,  burn,  kill,  and  slaughter  one 
another,  for  some  piece  of  land  more  or  less ;  and  to 
accomplish  this  with  the  greater  certainty  and  ingenuity, 
they  have  invented  beautiful  rules,  which  they  call 
"strategy."  When  any  one  brings  these  rules  into 
practice,  glory  and  the  highest  honours  are  his  reward, 
whilst  every  age  improves  on  the  method  of  destroying 
one  another  reciprocally.  An  injustice  committed  by 
the  first  men  was  the  primary  occasion  for  wars,  and 


1  Adolphe  de  Belleforiere,  Chevalier  de  Soyecourt,  a  captain  of  the  gen- 
darmes of  the  Dauphin,  died  two  days  after  the  battle  of  Fleurus  (July  i, 
1690),  of  wounds  received  in  this  battle,  in  which  his  elder  brother,  the 
Marquis  de  Soyecourt,  was  also  killed.  Both  those  young  men  were  the 
sons  of  Maximilien  Antoine,  Marquis  de  Soyecourt,  ^rand  veneur,  who  died 
in  1679,  ^''d  was  the  original  of  Dorante  in  Moliere's  comedy  Les  Facheux. 
The  name  of  the  Marquis  is  often  mentioned  in  the  lampoons  of  the  times 
for  his  reputation  of  valour  in  other  fields  than  those  of  Mars.  Xa  Bruyere 
was  a  friend  of  the  family,  whose  name  was  always  pronounced  Saucourt, 
and  even  sometimes  written  so. 


OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND   THE   STATE.  249 

made  the  people  feel  the  necessity  of  giving  themselves 
masters  to  settle  their  rights  and  pretensions.  If  each 
man  could  have  been  satisfied  with  his  own  property  and 
had  not  infringed  on  that  of  his  neighbours,  the  world 
would  have  enjoyed  uninterrupted  peace  and  liberty. 

(10.)  They  who  sit  peaceably  by  their  own  firesides 
among  their  friends,  and  in  the  midst  of  a  large  town, 
where  there  is  nothing  to  fear  either  for  their  wealth  or 
their  lives,  breathe  fire  and  sword,  busy  themselves  with 
wars,  destructions,  conflagrations,  and  massacres,  cannot 
bear  patiently  that  armies  are  in  the  field  and  do  not 
meet ;  or,  if  in  sight,  that  they  do  not  engage  ;  or,  if  they 
engage,  that  the  fight  was  not  more  sanguinary,  and  that 
there  were  scarcely  ten  thousand  men  killed  on  the  spot. 
They  are  sometimes  so  infatuated  as  to  forget  their 
dearest  interests,  their  repose  and  security,  for  the  sake 
of  change,  and  from  a  liking  for  novelty  and  extraordi- 
nary events  ;  some  of  them  would  even  be  satisfied  with 
seeing  the  enemy  at  the  very  gates  of  Dijon  or  Corbie,  ^ 
with  beholding  chains  stretched  across  the  streets  and 
barricades  thrown  up,  for  the  satisfaction  of  hearing  and 
of  communicating  the  news. 

(11.)  Demophilus,  on  my  right,  is  full  of  lamenta- 
tions, and  exclaims,  "  Everything  is  lost ;  we  are  on  the 
brink  of  ruin  ;  how  can  we  resist  such  a  powerful  and 
general  league  ?  2  What  can  we  do,  I  dare  not  say  to  van- 
quish, but  to  make  head  by  ourselves  against  so  many 


1  Dijon,  the  former  capital  of  Burgundy,  had  been  besieged  in  1515  by 
thirty  thousand  men,  who  retired  after  the  conclusion  of  a  treaty  of  peace 
which  the  king,  Francis  I.,  did  not  ratify.  Corbie,  a  town  in  Picardy,  was 
taken  when  Burgundy  and  Picardy  were  invaded  by  the  Imperials  in  1636. 

2  This  I'^l^  to  the  League  of  Augsburg,  a  coalition  of  England,  Germany, 
Spain,  HollXri'd,  Sweden,  and  Savoy  against  Louis  XIV.,  with  whom  they 
were  at  war  when  this  paragraph  was  published  in  i6gi. 


250  OF   THE   SOVEREIGN    AND   THE    STATE. 

and  such  powerful  enemies  ?  There  never  was  anything 
like  it  as  long  as  the  monarchy  has  existed  !  A  hero, 
an  Achilles,  would  have  to  succumb  !  Besides,"  adds 
he,  "  we  have  committed  some  very  serious  blunders  ; 
I  know  what  I  am  talking  about,  for  I  have  been  a 
soldier  myself;  I  have  seen  some  battles,  and  have 
learned  a  good  deal  from  studying  history."  Then  he 
falls  to  admiring  Olivier  le  Daim  and  Jacques  Coeur,^ 
who,  according  to  him,  were  men  after  his  own  heart, 
and  ministers  indeed.  He  retails  his  news,  which  is 
sure  to  be  the  most  melancholy  and  disadvantageous 
that  could  be  invented.  Now  a  party  of  our  soldiers 
has  fallen  into  an  ambush,  and  are  cut  to  pieces ; 
presently  some  of  our  troops,  shut  up  in  a  castle,  sur- 
render at  discretion,  and  are  all  put  to  the  sword. 
Should  you  tell  him  that  such  a  report  is  incorrect,  and 
wants  confirmation,  he  will  not  listen  to  you,  but  affirms 
that  a  general  has  been  killed  ;  and  though  it  is  certain 
that  he  has  only  been  slightly  wounded,  and  you  tell  him 
so,  he  deplores  his  death,  is  sorry  for  the  widow,  the 
children,  and  the  State,  and  is  even  sorry  for  himself,  for 
he  has  lost  a  good  friend  and  an  influential  patron.  He 
tells  you  the  German  horse  are  invincible,  and  turns  pale 
if  you  but  name  the  Imperial  cuirassiers.^  "  If  we  attack 
such  a  place,"  continues  he,  "  we  shall  be  obliged  to  raise 
the  siege  ;  we  shall  have  to  remain  on  the  defensive  with- 
out engaging  in  action,  or  if  we  do  fight,  we  shall  certainly 

1  Olivier  le  Daim,  first  the  barber  of  Louis  XI.  (1423-1483),  became  his 
favourite,  but  was  hanged  in  1484,  after  that  king's  death.  Jacques  Coeur,  a 
rich  merchant,  rendered  great  services  to  Charles  VII.  (1403-1461),  be- 
came his  treasurer,  and  was  accused  of  peculation  ;  thrown  into  prison, 
he  escaped,  and  died  in  exile  in  1461.  The  characters  of  both  these  men  were 
not  very  well  known  when  La  Bruyere  wrote. 

2  The  Imperial  cavalry  had  a  well-deserved  reputation  for  cruelty  and 
rapaciousness. 


OF   THE   SOVEREIGN    AND   THE    STATE.  251 

be  beaten,  and  then  the  enemy  will  be  upon  the  frontiers." 
Demophilus  gives  them  wings,  and  brings  them  presently 
into  the  heart  of  the  kingdom ;  he  fancies  he  already 
hears  the  alarm-bells  ring  in  the  towns,  and  thinks  of 
his  property  and  his  estate ;  he  does  not  know  where 
to  take  his  money,  his  movables,  and  his  family,  and 
whether  to  escape  to  the  Swiss  Cantons  or  to  Venice. 

But  Basilides,  on  my  left,  raises  suddenly  an  army  of 
three  hundred  thousand  men,  and  will  not  abate  a  single 
troop ;  he  has  a  list  of  all  the  squadrons,  battalions, 
generals,  and  officers,  not  omitting  the  artillery  and 
baggage.  All  these  troops  are  at  his  entire  disposal ; 
some  he  sends  into  Germany,  others  into  Flanders, 
reserves  a  certain  number  for  the  Alps,  a  smaller 
quantity  for  the  Pyrenees,  and  conveys  the  rest  beyond 
seas  ;  he  knows  their  marches,  he  can  tell  what  they 
will  do,  and  what  they  will  not  do  ;  you  would  think  he 
had  the  King's  ear,  or  was  the  minister's  confidant.  If 
the  enemies  are  beaten,^  and  lose  about  nine  or  ten 
thousand  men,  he  positively  avers  it  was  thirty,  neither 
more  nor  less  ;  for  his  numbers  are  always  as  settled 
and  certain  as  if  he  had  the  best  intelligence.  Tell  him 
in  the  morning  we  have  lost  a  paltry  village,  he  not  only 
puts  off  a  dinner  to  which  the  day  before  he  had  invited 
his  friends,  but  does  not  take  any  dinner  himself  on  that 
day  ;  and  if  he  eats  a  supper  it  is  without  appetite.  If 
we  besiege  a  town  strong  through  its  natural  position, 
and  regularly  fortified,^  well  stored  with  provisions  and 
ammunition,  defended  by  a  good  garrison,  commanded 


1  Another  allusion  to  the  battle  of  Fleurus,  won   by  the  Marshal  de 
Luxembourg  about  a  year  before  this  paragraph  was  published  (1691). 

2  This  refers  to  Mons,  besieged  by  Vauban,  and  taken  on  the  9th  of  April 
1691. 


252  OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND   THE   STATE. 

by  a  brave  general,  he  tells  you  the  town  has  its  weak 
spots,  which  are  badly  fortified,  is  in  want  of  powder, 
has  a  governor  who  lacks  experience,  and  will  capitulate 
eight  days  after  the  trenches  are  opened.  Another  time 
he  runs  himself  quite  out  of  breath,  and  after  he  has 
recovered  himself  a  little  he  exclaims,  "  I  have  some 
important  news  for  you  ;  our  enemies  are  beaten  and 
totally  routed ;  the  general  and  principal  officers,  or 
at  least  the  greater  part  of  them,  are  all  killed,  or 
have  perished.  What  a  tremendous  slaughter  !  We  cer- 
tainly have  been  verj'  lucky  ! "  Then  he  sits  down  and 
takes  a  rest,  after  havnng  told  us  the  news,  which  only 
wants  a  trifle  more  confirmation ;  for  it  is  certain  there 
has  been  no  battle  at  all.  He  assures  us  further  that 
some  prince,  dreading  our  arms,  has  abandoned  the 
League  and  left  his  confederates  in  the  lurch,  and  that  a 
second  is  inclined  to  follow  his  example  ;  he  believes 
firmly,  with  the  populace,  that  a  third  is  dead,^  and 
names  you  the  place  where  he  is  buried  ;  and  even  when 
the  common  people  -  are  undeceived,  he  offers  to  lay  a 
wager  it  is  true.  He  knows  for  a  fact  that  T.  K.  L.  is 
ver)'  successful  against  the  Emperor,^  that  the  Grand 
Turk  *  is  making  formidable  preparations,  and  will  not 
hear  of  peace  ;  and  that  the  Vizier  will  once  more  show 

^  In  the  month  of  July  1690,  a  rumour  spread  in  Paris  that  William  III. 
was  dead,  upon  which  many  i)eople  publicly  rejoiced,  until  the  news  came 
that  the  report  was  false.  The  "  Keys  "  of  the  old  English  versions  name 
for  the  first  and  second  prince  "the  Duke  of  Savoy  and  the  king  of 
Spain." 

2  The  original  has  halUs  et /duxbourgrs,  "markets  and  suburbs. " 

3  The  letters  T.  K.  L.  stand  for  Taekely,  a  Hungarian  nobleman  who 
broke  out  in  open  rebellion  against  the  Emperor  of  Austria,  Leopold  I. 
(1640-1705),  and  gained  a  victory  over  the  Imperial  troops  on  the  21st  of 
August  1690. 

*  At  that  time  the  Saltan  was  SoLiman  II.,  who  oaly  reigned  from  1687 
until  1691. 


OF   THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE.  253 

himself  before  Vienna.^  He  claps  his  hands  and  is  as 
delighted  as  if  there  were  not  the  smallest  doubt  about 
it.  The  triple  alliance  2  is  a  Cerberus  ^  with  him,  and 
the  enemy  only  so  many  monsters  to  be  knocked  on  the 
head.  He  talks  of  nothing  but  laurels,  palm-branches, 
triumphs,  and  trophies  ;  in  conversation  he  speaks  of 
"  our  august  hero,  our  mighty  potentate,  our  invincible 
monarch,"  and  whatever  you  do,  you  will  not  get  him 
to  say  simply,  "  The  King  has  a  great  many  enemies  ; 
they  are  powerful,  united,  and  exasperated  ;  he  has  con- 
quered them,  and  I  hope  he  will  always  do  so."  This 
style,  too  bold  and  decisive  for  Demophilus,  is  not  suf- 
ficiently pompous  or  grandiloquent  for  Basilides ;  his 
head  is  full  of  other  expressions  ;  he  is  planning  inscrip- 
tions for  triumphal  arches  and  pyramids  to  adorn  the 
capital  when  the  conqueror  will  enter  it ;  and  as  soon  as 
he  hears  that  the  armies  are  in  sight  of  each  other,  or 
that  a  town  is  invested,  he  has  his  clothes  hung  out  and 
aired,  so  that  they  should  be  ready  when  a  Te  Deum  is 
sung  in  the  cathedral.* 

(12.)  A  business  which  has  to  be  discussed  by  the 
plenipotentiaries  or  by  the  diplomatic  agents  of  crowned 
heads  and  republics  must  needs  be  unusually  intricate 
and  difficult  if  its  conclusion  requires  a  longer  time  than 

\  The  Grand  Vizier  Kara-Mustapha  laid  siege  to  Vienna  in  1683. 

2  A  league  formed  in  the  Hague  against  France  was  called  "  The 
Triple  Alliance,"  and  was  entered  upon  in  1668  between  England,  Holland, 
and  Sweden.  Sometimes  the  treaty  formed  in  1717  between  George  I.,  the 
Regent  of  France,  and  the  United  Provinces  is  also  called  "Triple  Alliance." 

3  Cerberus,  a  dog  with  three  heads,  which  keeps  guard  in  the  infernal 
regions. 

*  According  to  the  commentators,   two   insignificant   newsmongers  are 
supposed  to  be  portrayed  in  Demophilus  and  Basilides,  an  Abbe  de  Sainte- 
Helene  and  a  certain   du   Moulinet,   whom   some  think  might  have  been 
an  abb^  or  a  magistrate,  because  instead  of  clothes  he  speaks  of  his  robe  or  ' 
gown. 


254  OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND    THE   STATE. 

the  settling  of  the  preliminaries,  nay,  even  than  the 
mere  regulating  of  ranks,  precedences,  and  other  cere- 
monies. 

A  minister  or  a  plenipotentiary  is  a  chameleon  or  a 
Proteus  ;  ^  sometimes,  like  a  practised  gambler,  he  hides 
his  temper  and  character,  either  to  avoid  any  conjectures 
or  guesses,  or  to  prevent  any  part  of  his  secret  escaping 
through  passion  or  weakness  ;  and  at  other  times  he 
knows  how  to  assume  any  character  most  suited  to  his 
designs,  or  which  is  required,  as  it  may  be  his  interest 
artfully  to  appear  to  other  people  as  they  think  he  really 
is.  Thus  when  he  intends  to  conceal  that  his  master  is 
very  formidable  or  very  weak,  he  is  resolute  and  in- 
flexible to  prevent  any  large  demands  ;  or  he  is  easy- 
going, so  as  to  give  others  an  opportunity  of  making 
some  demands,  and  so  secure  the  same  liberty.  At 
other  times  he  is  either  diplomatic  and  disingenuous,  so 
as  to  veil  a  truth  whilst  telling  it,  because  it  is  of  some 
importance  to  him  to  have  it  divulged  but  not  believed ; 
or  else  he  is  free  and  open,  so  that  when  he  wishes  to 
conceal  what  should  not  be  known,  people  should  never- 
theless believe  that  he  is  acquainted  with  everything 
they  wish  to  know,  and  be  convinced  that  they  have 
been  told  everything.  In  like  manner  he  is  fluent  and 
verbose  to  excite  others  to  talk,  or  prevent  their  saying 
what  he  does  not  wish  or  ought  not  to  hear  ;  to  speak 
of  many  and  various  things  which  modify  and  destroy 
each  other,  and  leave  the  mind  hovering  between  con- 
fidence and  distrust ;  to  make  amends  for  an  expedient 
thoughtlessly  proposed  by  suggesting  another ;  or  he 
is  sedate  and  taciturn  to  induce  others  to  talk,  to  listen 

1  Proteus,  in  the  mythology,  is  a  sed-god  residing  in  the  Carpathian  Sea, 
who  could  change  his  form  at  will. 


OF   THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE.  255 

for  a  long  time,  so  that  he  may  afterwards  obtain  the 
same  favour  himself,  speak  with  authority  and  weight, 
and  utter  promises  or  threats  which  will  influence  people 
and  produce  a  strong  impression.  He  begins  and 
speaks  first,  the  better  to  discover  the  opposition  and 
contradictions,  the  intrigues  and  cabals,  of  foreign 
ministers  about  some  proposals  he  has  made,  to 
take  his  measures  and  reply  to  them ;  and  at  another 
meeting  he  speaks  last,  that  he  may  be  sure  not  to 
speak  in  vain,  and  to  be  exact,  so  as  perfectly  to  be 
aware  on  what  support  he  can  reckon  for  his  master  and 
his  allies,  as  well  as  to  know  what  he  ought  to  ask  and 
what  he  can  get.  He  knows  how  to  be  clear  and 
explicit,  or  still  better,  how  to  be  ambiguous  and  obscure, 
and  to  use  words  and  phrases  with  a  double  mean- 
ing, which  he  can  render  more  or  less  forcible  as  the 
occasion  or  his  interest  may  require.  He  asks  for  a 
little  because  he  will  not  grant  much  ;  he  asks  for  much 
to  make  sure  of  a  little.  At  first  he  insists  upon  getting 
a  few  trifling  things,  which  he  afterwards  pretends  to  be 
of  small  value,  so  as  not  to  prevent  him  for  asking  for 
one  of  greater  value  ;  he  avoids,  on  the  contrary,  to  gain 
at  first  an  important  point,  if  it  is  likely  to  prevent  him 
from  obtaining  several  others  of  less  importance,  but 
which,  when  united,  exceed  the  other  in  value.  His 
demands  are  extravagant,  but  he  knows  beforehand  they 
will  be  denied,  so  he  is  provided  with  a  convenient 
excuse  for  refusing  those  he  knows  will  be  made,  and 
which  he  does  not  wish  to  grant ;  as  industrious  to 
aggravate  the  enormity  of  these  demands,  and  to  let  his 
adversaries  admit,  if  possible,  that  there  may  be  reasons 
why  they  cannot  agree,  as  to  weaken  those  which  they 
pretend  to  have  for  not  granting  liim  what  he  solicits  so 


256  OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND   THE   STATE. 

urgently  ;  and  as  diligent  in  vaunting  and  in  enlarging 
upon  the  little  he  has  to  offer  as  he  is  in  despising 
openly  the  little  they  are  willing  to  grant.  He  pretends 
to  make  some  extraordinary  proposals  which  beget  dis- 
trust, and  cause  to  be  rejected  what  indeed,  if  accepted, 
could  not  be  performed ;  this  also  serves  to  colour  his 
exorbitant  demands,  and  throws  on  his  antagonists  the 
responsibility  of  a  refusal.  He  grants  more  than  is 
asked,  so  as  to  get  still  more  than  he  gives.  You  have 
to  pray,  entreat,  and  beseech  him  for  a  long  time  to 
obtain  some  trifling  favour,  so  as  to  destroy  all  expecta- 
tions and  uproot  all  thoughts  of  asking  anything  more 
important  of  him  ;  or,  if  he  is  persuaded  to  grant  it,  it 
is  always  on  such  conditions  that  he  may  share  in  its 
profits  and  advantages.  He  directly  or  indirectly  espouses 
the  interest  of  an  ally,  if  he  finds  it  at  the  same  time  con- 
ducive to  the  advancing  of  his  own  pretensions  ;  he  talks 
of  nothing  but  peace  and  alliances,  the  public  tranquillity 
and  the  public  interests,  and  thinks,  indeed,  only  of 
his  own,  or  rather  of  his  master's  and  the  State's  he 
represents.  Sometimes  he  reconciles  some  people  who 
were  opposed  to  one  another,  and  sometimes  he  divides 
those  who  were  united  ;  he  intimidates  the  powerful  and 
encourages  the  weak  ;  he  draws  several  weak  States  into 
a  league  against  a  more  powerful  one,  under  the  pre- 
tence of  a  balance  of  power,  and  then  joins  the  former 
to  turn  the  scale ;  but  his  protection  and  his  alliance  are 
always  expensive.  He  knows  how  to  interest  those  with 
whom  he  treats,  and  by  a  dexterous  management  and 
by  shrewd  and  subtle  subterfuges  he  makes  them  per- 
ceive what  private  advantage,  profits,  and  honours  they 
may  derive  through  a  certain  pliability,  which  does  not 
in  the  least  clash  with  their  instructions  nor  with  the 


OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND    THE   STATE.  257 

intentions  of  their  masters.  And  in  order  not  to  be 
thought  impregnable  on  his  side,  he  betrays  some 
anxiety  to  better  his  fortunes,  and  then  receives  some 
proposals  which  unveil  to  him  the  most  secret  intentions, 
the  most  profound  designs,  and  the  last  resource  of  his 
opponents,  and  which  he  turns  to  his  own  advantage. 
If  sometimes  he  is  a  loser  by  certain  stipulations,  which 
have  at  last  been  settled,  he  clamours  loudly ;  and  if 
he  is  not,  he  is  still  louder,  and  puts  the  losers  on  their 
justification  and  defence.  His  court  has  laid  down  rules 
of  conduct  for  his  guidance,  all  his  measures  are  pre- 
concerted, and  his  smallest  advances  arranged  before- 
hand ;  and  yet,  whilst  subjects  of  the  greatest  difficulty 
are  treated  and  certain  points  are  most  strenuously  con- 
tested, he  behaves  as  if  his  yielding  was  voluntary, 
unexpected,  and  purely  a  condescension  on  his  part  ;  he 
dares  even  pledge  his  word  that  a  certain  proposal  will 
be  approved  of,  and  that  his  master  will  not  disavow  his 
proceedings  ;  he  allows  false  reports  to  be  spread  con- 
cerning his  instructions,  which  are  represented  as  very 
limited,  but  he  knows  he  has  some  private  instructions 
which  he  never  discloses  until  obliged  to  do  so,  and 
when  it  would  damage  him  not  to  bring  them  forward. 
All  his  intrigues  aim  at  something  solid  and  substantial, 
for  which  he  always  is  ready  to  sacrifice  punctilios  and 
imaginary  points  of  honour.  He  possesses  a  great  deal 
of  coolness,  is  armed  with  courage  and  patience,  and 
wearies  and  discourages  others,  but  is  never  weary  him- 
self. He  takes  precautions  and  is  hardened  against  all 
delays  and  procrastination,  against  all  reproaches,  sus- 
picions, mistrust,  difficulties,  and  obstacles,  convinced 
that  time  and  circumstances  will  influence  the  minds  of 
his   opponents,  and  accomplish  the  desired  end       He 

R 


258  OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND  THE   STATE. 

goes  SO  far  as  to  pretend  he  has  a  secret  purpose  in 
breaking  off  the  negotiations,  while  he  passionately  de- 
sires their  continuance  ;  but,  on  the  contrary,  when  he 
has  strict  orders  to  do  his  utmost  to  break  them  off,  he 
thinks  the  best  way  to  effect  it  is  to  urge  they  should  be 
continued  and  speedily  despatched.  If  some  important 
event  happens,  he  affects  either  haughtiness  or  affability, 
as  it  may  be  to  his  advantage  or  prejudice ;  and  if  he 
is  so  perspicacious  as  to  foresee  it,  he  hurries  it  on  or 
temporises  according  as  the  state  for  whom  he  labours 
dreads  or  desires  it,  and  acts  according  to  these  emer- 
gencies. He  shapes  his  actions  to  suit  time,  place, 
and  opportunities,  his  own  strength  or  weakness,  the 
genius  of  the  nation  he  has  to  deal  with,  and  the  mood 
and  character  of  the  personages  with  whom  he  is  nego- 
tiating. All  his  designs  and  maxims,  all  the  devices  of 
his  policy,  tend  only  to  prevent  his  being  deceived,  and 
to  deceive  others.^ 

(13.)  The  French  nation  require  their  sovereign  to  be 
grave  in  his  deportment.  ^ 

(14.)  One  of  the  misfortunes  of  a  prince  is  to  be  often 
overburdened  with  a  secret  of  which  the  communication 
would  be  dangerous  ;  he  is  fortunate  if  he  can  meet 
with  a  faithful  confidant  to  whom  he  can  unbosom  him- 
self. 3 

(15).  A  prince  can  get  ever}thing  he  wants  except 
the  pleasures  of  a  private  life  :  only  the  charms  of  friend- 

1  This  paragraph  is  the  longest  La  Bruyere  has  written  ;  it  covers  between 
eight  and  nine  pages  in  tlie  original  edition. 

2  An  indirect  homage  to  the  assumed  gravity  of  Louis  XIV. 

3  Most  probably  this  is  a  discreet  allusion  to  Madame  de  Maintenon, 
whom  the  king  had  married  in  1684,  and  in  whose  room  generally  a  Council 
of  State  was  held. 


OF   THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE.  259 

ship  and  the  fidelity  of  his  friends  can  console  him  for 
such  a  great  loss. 

(16.)  A  monarch  who  deservedly  fills  a  throne  finds 
it  pleasant  sometimes  to  be  less  grand,  to  quit  the  stage, 
to  leave  off  the  theatrical  cloak  and  buskins,  ^  and  act  a 
more  familiar  part  with  a  confidant. 

(17.)  Nothing  is  more  creditable  to  a  prince  than  the 
modesty  of  his  favourite. 

(18.)  No  ties  of  friendship  or  consanguinity  affect  a 
favourite  ;  he  may  be  surrounded  on  all  sides  by  relatives 
and  friends,  but  he  does  not  mind  them  ;  he  is  detached 
from  everything,  and,  as  it  were,  isolated. 

(19.)  The  best  thing  a  man  can  do  who  has  fallen 
into  disgrace  is  to  retire  from  the  court,  for  it  would  be 
better  for  him  to  disappear  than  to  wander  about  in 
society  as  a  former  favourite,  and  to  act  a  wholly  different 
part  from  his  first  one.  If  he  does  this  and  remains  in 
solitude,  his  career  will  be  looked  upon  as  marvellous  ; 
and  though  he  dies,  as  it  were,  before  his '  time,  people 
will  only  remember  his  splendour  and  his  kindness. 

A  favourite  who  has  fallen  into  disgrace  can  behave 
still  better  than  by  becoming  a  hermit  and  trying  to  be 
forgotten,  namely,  by  attempting  some  lofty  and  noble 
deed,  if  he  can  do  so,  for  which  he  will  be  greatly  praised, 
his  reputation  exalted,  or,  at  least,  confirmed ;  and  by 
which  also  it  will  be  clearly  proved  that  he  deserved  his 
former  favour,  so  that  people  will  pity  his  downfall,  and 
partly  blame  his  ill-luck.^ 

1  Bas  de  saye,  in  the  original,  is  a  plaited  petticoat  worn  in  Louis  XIV. 's 
time  by  actors  in  classical  tragedies  ;  it  owes  its  name  to  the  Latin  sagiim, 
a  military  cloak  of  the  ancient  Gauls.  Brodequins  was  the  name  given  to  the 
buskins  of  comic  actors  ;  the  tragic  actors  strutted  in  their  cothumes. 

2  This  paragraph  only  appeared  for  the  first  time  in  the  fourth  edition  of 
the  "  Characiers,"  published  in  1689,  and  disappeared,  never  to  be  printed 


2  6o  OF    THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE. 

(20.)  I  do  not  doubt  that  a  favourite  who  has  a 
sufficiently  powerful  and  lofty  mind  must  often  feel  em- 
barrassed and  abashed  at  the  meanness,  littleness,  and 
flattery,  at  the  superfluous  cares  and  frivolous  attentions 
of  those  who  run  after  him,  follow  him,  and  cling  to  him, 
like  the  vile  creatures  they  are  ;  no  doiibt  he  laughs 
and  sneers  at  them  in  private  to  make  amends  for  the 
restraint  he  has  to  impose  on  himself  in  public. 

(21.)  Ye  who  are  in  office,  ministers  of  state  or 
favourites,  give  me  leave  to  offer  you  some  advice. 
Do  not  trust  to  your  progeny  to  look  after  your  reputa- 
tion when  you  are  gone,  or  expect  that  they  will  pre- 
ser^'e  the  lustre  of  your  name ;  titles  pass  away,  a 
prince's  favour  is  evanescent,  honours  are  lost,  wealth  is 
spent,  and  merit  degenerates.  It  is  true  you  have  chil- 
dren worthy  of  you,  and  I  shall  even  add,  capable  of 
maintaining  the  position  you  leave  them  ;  but  can  you 
say  the  same  thing  of  your  grandchildren  ?  Do  not 
believe  me,  but  cast  your  eyes  for  once  on  some  men 
whom  you  despise,  and  who  are  descended  from  the 
very  persons  to  whom  you  succeed,  though  you  are  now 
in  such  a  high  position.  Be  virtuous  and  humane  ;  and, 
if  you  ask  what  more  is  necessar)',  I  will  tell  you  : 
''  Humanity  and  virtue."  Then  you  can  command  the 
future  and  be  independent  of  posterity  ;  then  you  can  be 
certain  to  last  as  long  as  the  monarchy.  And  when  in 
ages  to  come  some  people  will  point  out  the  ruins  of  your 


again,  two  years  afterwards.  It  was  probably  suppressed  for  fear  of  offend- 
ing cither  Louis  XIV.,  who  had  allowed  his  former  favourites,  Bussy- 
Rabutin  and  Lauzun,  to  reappear  at  court  (see  page  18,  note  5,  and  page 
2:8,  note  2),  or  of  hurting  the  feelirigs  of  these  two  noblemen,  above  all 
of  Bussy-Rabutin,  who,  after  being  admitted  to  the  presence  of  the  King, 
twice  left  a  court  where  he  felt  he  was  not  wanted,  and  could  not  obtain 
any  command  in  the  army. 


OF    THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE   STATE.  261 

castles,  and  perhaps  only  the  spot  where  they  once  existed, 
the  thought  of  your  praiseworthy  deeds  will  still  remain 
fresh  in  their  minds  ;  they  will  look  eagerly  at  portraits 
and  medallions  of  you,  and  will  say,  "The  man  ^  whose 
efifigies  you  behold  was  one  who  dared  to  address  his 
prince  forcibly  and  freely,  and  was  more  afraid  of  in- 
juring than  of  displeasing  him  ;  he  did  not  oppose  his 
being  good  and  generous,  nor  his  speaking  of  his  good 
cities  and  of  his  good  people.  In  this  other  personage 
whose  portrait  you  see  ^  you  will  observe  strongly  marked 
lineaments  and  an  austere  and  majestic  air  ;  his  reputa- 
tion increases  every  year,  and  the  greatest  politicians 
cannot  compete  with  him.  His  chief  design  was  to 
establish  the  authority  of  the  prince,  and  to  ensure  the 
lives  and  property  of  the  people  by  destroying  the  power 
of  the  great ;  from  this,  neither  the  opposition  of  vari- 
ous parties,  conspiracies,  treacheries,  the  risk  of  being 
assassinated,  nor  his  own  infirmities,  were  able  to  divert 
him  ;  he  accomplished  it,  and  yet  he  had  leisure  to 
commence  another  enterprise,  since  continued  and  com- 
pleted by  the  best  and  greatest  of  our  princes,  the  extir- 
pation of  heresy."  •* 

(22.)  The  most  artful  and  plausible  snare  that  ever 
was  set  for  great  men  by  their  men  of  business,  or  for 
kings  by  their  ministers,  has  been  the  advice  of  liquidat- 
ing their  debts  whilst  enriching  themselves.*    Such  advice 

1  This  refers  to  Cardinal  Georges  d'Amboise  (1460-1510),  Prime  Minister 
of  Louis  XII. 

2  Cardinal  Richelieu  (1585-1642)  is  meant. 

3  In  politics,  La  Briiyere  was  in  advance  of  his  age,  but  not  in  religious 
questions.  He  shared  the  idea  of  "  the  extirpation  of  heresy,"  not  alone 
with  almost  all  the  prelates  of  his  time,  but  with  some  of  the  most  eminent 
men  in  science,  art,  and  literature,  who  all  applauded  the  revocation  of  the 
Edict  of  Nantes  (1685),  and  advocated  the  notion  of  one  religion  for  the 
whole  State. 

*  This  is  an  allusion  to  the  reduction  of  the  interest  on  the  French  debt, 


262  OF   THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE. 

is  admirable,  such  a  maxim  is  useful  and  productive, 
and  proves  a  gold  mine  and  a  Peru,  at  least  to  those 
who  have  hitherto  had  the  address  to  instil  it  into  their 
masters'  minds.i 

(23.)  Happy  indeed  is  that  nation  whose  prince 
appoints  the  very  same  persons  for  his  confidants  and 
ministers  whom  the  people  would  have  chosen  them- 
selves if  they  could  have  done  so, 

(24.)  The  mastering  of  the  details  of  business  and 
a  diligent  apphcation  to  the  smallest  necessities  of  the 
state  are  essential  to  a  good  administration,  though, 
in  truth,  too  much  neglected  in  these  latter  times  by 
kings  and  their  ministers  ;  it  is  a  knowledge  greatly  to 
be  desired  in  a  prince  who  is  ignorant  of  it,  and  highly 
to  be  valued  in  him  who  has  acquired  it.^  Indeed, 
what    benefits    and    what    increase    of  pleasure    would 

and  the  calling  in  and  recoining  of  certain  monies,  a  measure  which  was 
often  taken  by  the  French  kings,  and  even  by  Louis  XIV.,  who,  how- 
ever, made  no  profit  by  it.     See  also  page  152,  note  2. 

1  Colbert  has  been  wrongly  accused  of  having  made  money  by  those 
means  ;  an  accusation  which  was  also  brought  against  Mazarin,  Fouquet, 
and  ths/ermieys  g;eneraux,  on  far  better  grounds. 

-  Our  author  had  to  conciliate  Louis  XIV.  at  a  time  when  it  was  supposed 
the  publication  of  the  "  Characters  "  might  make  him  many  enemies.  Hence 
the  direct  and;indirect  flatteries  he  bestows  on  the  king,  who  prided  himself  oa 
his  complete  mastery  of  details,  for  which  he  was  praised  by  some  and 
blamed  by  others  ;  and  amongst  these  latter  must  be  reckoned  Fenelon,  who 
in  his  Telentachus  (Book  xvi.)  criticises  Louis  XIV.  in  the  character  of 
Idomeneus.  That  the  king  had  a  talent  for  mastering  details  cannot  be 
doubted,  and  this  is  even  admitted  by  the  late  John  Richard  Green,  in  his 
"  Short  History  of  the  English  People,"  chap.  ix.  sect,  vii.,  whose  opinion 
of  Louis  XIV.  I  transcribe  here,  as  a  corrective  of  the  flatteries  scattered 
on  this  royal  despot  by  La  Bruyere  :  "  Louis  the  Fourteenth,  bigoted, 
narrow-minded,  commonplace  as  he  was,  without  personal  honour  or  per- 
sonal courage,  without  gratitude  and  without  pity,  insane  in  his  pride, 
insatiable  in  his  selfishness,  had  still  many  of  the  qualities  of  a  great  ruler ; 
industry,  patience,  quickness  of  resolve,  firmness  of  purpose,  a  capacity  for 
discerning  greatness  and  using  it,  an  immense  self-belief  and  self-confidence, 
and  a  temper  utterly  destitute  indeed  of  real  greatness,  but  with  a  dramatic 
turn  for  seeming  to  be  great." 


OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND   THE    STATE.  263 

accrue  to  a  people  by  their  prince  extending  the  bounds 
of  his  empire  into  the  territories  of  his  enemies,  by 
their  sovereignties  becoming  provinces  of  his  kingdom, 
by  his  overcoming  them  in  sieges  and  battles,  by  neither 
the  plains  nor  the  strongest  fortifications  affording  any 
security  against  him,  by  the  neighbouring  nations  ask- 
ing aid  of  one  another,  and  entering  into  leagues  to 
defend  themselves  and  put  a  stop  to  his  conquests,  by 
their  leagues  being  in  vain,  by  his  continual  advances 
and  triumphs,  by  their  last  hopes  being  frustrated  by 
the  monarch  recovering  his  health,^  and  thus  affording 
him  the  pleasure  of  seeing  the  young  princes,  his  grand- 
children, ^  maintain  and  enhance  his  glory,  beholding 
them  lead  an  army  into  the  field,  take  the  strongest 
fortresses,  conquer  new  states,  command  old  and  ex- 
perienced officers  rather  by  their  genius  and  merit  than 
by  the  privilege  of  their  noble  birth,  observing  them 
tread  in  the  footsteps  of  their  victorious  father  and  imi- 
tate his  goodness,  his  willingness  to  learn,  his  justice, 
vigilance,  and  magnanimity.  What  signifies  it  to  me,  in 
a  word,  or  to  any  of  my  fellow-subjects,  that  my  sovereign 
be  successful  and  overwhelmed  with  glory,  through  his 
own  actions  as  well  as  through  those  of  his  family  and 
servants  ;  that  my  country  is  powerful  and  dreaded,  if, 
sad  and  uneasy,  I  have  to  live  oppressed  and  poor ;  if, 
while  I  am  secured  against  any  inroads  of  the  enemy, 
I  am  exposed  in  the  public  squares  or  the  streets  of 
our  cities  to  the  dagger  of  the  assassin  ;  or  if  rapine 
and  violence  are  less  to  be  feared  in  the  darkest  nights 
amidst  the  densest  forests  than  in  our  streets ;  if  security, 
order,  and  cleanliness  have  not  rendered  the  residing  in 
our  cities  so  delightful,  and  have  not  introduced  there 

1  An  allusion  to  an  operation  for  fistula  performed  on  Louis  XIV.  in  1686. 


264  OF   THE    SOVEREIGN    AND   THE    STATE, 

plenty  as  well  as  the  pleasures  of  social  intercourse ;  or 
if,  being  weak  and  defenceless,  my  property  is  to  be  en- 
croached upon  by  some  great  man  in  the  neighbourhood ; 
if  there  is  not  a  provision  made  to  protect  me  against 
his  injustice  ;  if  I  have  not  within  reach  so  many  masters, 
and  excellent  masters  too,  to  instruct  my  children  in 
sciences  and  arts,  which  will  one  day  raise  their  fortunes  ; 
if  the  improvement  of  trade  will  not  facilitate  my  pro- 
viding myself  with  more  decent  clothing  ^  and  wholesome 
food  for  my  sustenance,  at  a  reasonable  rate ;  if,  to  con- 
clude, through  the  care  my  sovereign  takes  of  me,  I  am 
not  as  satisfied  with  my  lot  as  his  virtues  must  needs 
make  him  with  his  own  ? 

(25.)  Eight  or  ten  thousand  men  are  to  a  prince  like 
money  ;  with  their  lives  he  buys  a  town  or  a  victory  ; 
but,  if  he  can  obtain  either  at  a  cheaper  rate,  and  is 
sparing  of  them,  he  is  like  a  man  who  is  bargaining  and 
knows  better  than  any  other  the  value  of  money. 

(26.)  All  things  succeed  in  a  monarchy  where  the  in- 
terests of  the  state  are  identical  with  those  of  the  prince. 

(27.)  To  call  a  king  the  father  of  his  people  ^  is  not 
so  much  to  eulogise  him  as  to  call  him  by  his  name  and 
to  define  what  he  is. 

(28.)  There  exists  a  sort  of  interchange  or  permu- 
tation of  duties  between  a  sovereign  and  his  subjects, 
and  between  them  and  him  ;  and  I  shall  not  decide 
which  are  most  obligatory  and  most  diflScult.      On  the 


1  Voltaire,  in  his  Steele  de  Louis  XIV.,  says  :  "  From  1663  until  1672  every 
year  some  new  manufactory  was  established.  The  fine  cloths  formerly  im- 
ported from  England  and  Holland  were  manufactured  at  Abbeville.  .  .  .  The 
cloth  manufactories  of  Sedan,  which  had  almost  gone  to  wreck  and  ruin, 
were  re-established."     See  also  page  48,  note  3. 

2  Louis  XII.  was  called  by  the  States-General  assembled  at  Tours 
(1506)  the  "  father  of  his  people." 


OF    THE   SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE.  265 

one  hand,  we  have  to  determine  what  are  the  bounden 
duties  of  reverence,  assistance,  service,  obedience,  and 
dependence,  and  on  the  other  what  are  the  indispensable 
obligations  of  goodness,  justice,  and  protection.  To  say 
the  prince  can  dispose  of  the  lives  of  the  people,  is  to 
tell  us  only  that  through  their  crimes  men  have  become 
subjected  to  the  laws  and  justice  which  the  king  ad- 
ministers ;  to  add  that  he  is  absolute  master  of  all 
his  subjects'  goods  without  any  considerations,  without 
rendering  any  accounts,  or  without  discussion,  is  the 
language  of  flattery,  the  opinion  of  a  favourite  who  will 
recant  on  his  deathbed.  ^ 

(29.)  When  on  a  fine  evening  a  numerous  flock  of 
sheep  is  seen  on  a  hill  quietly  browsing  thyme  and  wild 
thyme,  or  nibbling  in  a  meadow  the  short  and  tender 
grass  which  has  escaped  the  scythe  of  the  reaper,  the  care- 
ful and  diligent  shepherd  is  amongst  them;  he  does  not 
lose  sight  of  them,  but  follows  them,  leads  them,  changes 
their  pasture  ;  if  they  wander,  he  calls  them  together  ;  if 
a  hungry  wolf  approaches,  he  sets  his  dog  on  to  beat 
him  off;  he  keeps  them  and  defends  them  ;  and  when 
the  sun  rises  he  is  already  in  the  fields,  which  he  leaves 
at  its  setting.  What  an  amount  of  care,  watchfulness, 
and  assiduity  is  needed  !  Which  condition  seems  to  you 
the  most  delicious  and  the  most  unfettered,  that  of  the 
sheep  or  of  the  shepherd  ?  Was  the  flock  made  for  the 
shepherd  or  the  shepherd  for  the  flock  ?  This  is  an 
artless  representation  of  a  nation  and  its  prince,  but 
then  the  prince  must  be  good. 

A  gorgeous  and  sumptuous  monarch  is  like  a  shep- 


1  Such  was,  however,  the  opinion  of  Louis  XIV.  himself,  who  states  in  his 
Mimoires :  "  Kings  are  absolute  masters,  and  naturally  dispose  fully  and 
entirely  of  all  the  property  possessed  by  the  clergy  and  laity." 


2  66  OF   THE   SOVEREIGN   AND   THE   STATE. 

herd  adorned  with  gold  and  jewels,  with  a  golden  crook 
in  his  hands,  with  a  collar  of  gold  about  his  dog's  neck, 
and  a  silken  and  golden  string  to  lead  him.  What  is 
his  flock  the  better  for  all  this  gold,  or  what  avails  it 
against  the  wolves  ? 

(30.)  How  happy  is  that  station  which  every  instant 
furnishes  opportunities  of  doing  good  to  thousands  of 
men  !  how  dangerous  is  that  post  which  every  moment 
exposes  its  occupant  to  injure  millions  ! 

(31.)  If  men  in  this  world  cannot  feel  a  more  natural, 
praiseworthy,  and  sensible  pleasure  than  to  know  that 
they  are  beloved,  and  if  kings  are  men,  can  they  pur- 
chase the  hearts  of  their  people  at  too  high  a  rate  ? 

(32.)  There  are  very  few  general  rules  and  un variable 
regulations  for  governing  well ;  they  depend  on  times  and 
circumstances,  as  well  as  on  the  prudence  and  designs 
of  the  rulers.  A  perfect  government  is,  therefore,  a 
masterpiece  of  the  intellect ;  and  perhaps  it  would  be 
impossible  to  attain  it,  if  the  subjects  did  not  contribute 
their  moiety  towards  it  by  their  habits  of  dependence 
and  submission. 

(33.)  Those  persons  who,  under  a  very  great  monarch, 
fill  the  highest  offices,  have  no  very  intricate  duties  to 
perform,  and  they  do  this  without  any  trouble  ;  every- 
thing goes  on  easily  ;  the  authority  and  the  genius  of  the 
prince  smoothes  their  way,  rids  them  of  all  difficulties, 
and  makes  everything  prosper  beyond  their  expectations  ; 
their  merit  consists  in  being  subordinates.^ 

(34.)  If  the  care  of  a  single  family  be  so  burdensome, 
if  a  man  has  enough  to  do  to  answer  for  himself,  what 

1  This  is  another  flattery  intended  for  Louis  XIV.,  who  thought  that  his 
ministers  got  their  talents  "  by  virtue  of  their  office."  The  vtord  subaltemes, 
"  subordinates,"  seems  also  out  of  place  applied  to  such  men  as  Colbert  and 
Louvois. 


OF    THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE.  267 

a  weight,  what  a  heavy  load  must  be  the  charge  of  a 
whole  realm !  Is  a  sovereign  rewarded  for  all  his 
anxieties  by  the  pleasures  which  absolute  power  seems 
to  afford  and  by  the  prostrations  of  his  courtiers  ? 
When  I  think  of  the  difficult,  hazardous,  and  dangerous 
paths  he  sometimes  is  forced  to  tread  to  attain  public 
tranquillity  ;  when  I  think  of  the  extreme  but  necessary 
means  he  often  is  obliged  to  employ  to  compass  a  good 
end ;  when  I  am  aware  he  is  accountable  to  God  for 
the  welfare  of  his  people,  that  good  and  evil  are  in 
his  hands,  and  that  he  cannot  plead  ignorance  as  an 
excuse,  I  cannot  forbear  asking  myself  the  question  if 
I  should  like  to  reign  ?  A  man  who  is  tolerably  happy 
as  a  private  individual  should  not  abandon  it  for  a 
throne,  for,  even  to  one  who  occupies  it  by  hereditary 
right,  it  is  almost  unbearable  to  be  born  a  monarch. 

(35.)  How  many  gifts  Heaven  must  bestow  on  a 
prince  for  him  to  become  a  good  ruler  !  He  must  be 
of  royal  blood,  have  an  august  and  commanding  air,  a 
presence  to  satisfy  the  curiosity  of  a  crowd  anxious  to 
see  the  prince,  as  well  as  to  command  respect  from  his 
courtiers.i  His  temper  must  be  always  the  same ;  he 
must  be  averse  to  ill-natured  raillery,  or,  at  least,  be  so 
sensible  as  to  refrain  from  it ;  he  must  never  threaten, 
reproach,  nor  give  way  to  passion,  yet  he  must  be 
always  obeyed ;  he  should  be  complacent  and  engaging, 
so  frank  and  sincere  that  all  may  think  they  plainly  see 
the  bottom  of  his  heart,  which  will  tend  to  gain  him 
friends,  partisans,  and  allies  ;  yet  he  must  be  secret, 
close,  and  impenetrable  in  his  motives  and  plans  ;  he 
must  be  very  grave  and   serious  in   pubHc ;  be  brief, 

1  Louis  XIV.  was  certainly  not  displeased  when  his  presence  awed  those 
who  were  presented  to  him.  , 


268  OF   THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE. 

precise,  and  dignified  in  his  answers  to  ambassadors,  as 
well  as  in  his  expressions  in  council  ;  be  careful  in 
choosing  fit  objects  for  his  favours,  and  bestow  them 
with  that  peculiar  charm  which  enhances  them  ;  great 
must  be  his  sagacity  to  penetrate  into  the  minds, 
qualifications,  and  tempers  of  men,  to  nominate  them  to 
various  posts  and  places,  as  well  as  to  select  his  generals 
and  ministers  of  state.  His  opinions  should  be  so 
settled,  sound,  and  decisive  in  matters  of  state,  as 
immediately  to  point  out  what  is  the  best  and  most 
honest  thing  to  do  ;  his  mind  ought  to  be  so  upright 
and  just  as  sometimes  to  decide  against  himself  and  in 
favour  of  his  subjects,  allies,  or  enemies  ;  so  compre- 
hensive and  ready  should  be  his  memory  as  to  remember 
the  necessities  of  his  subjects,  their  faces,  names,  and 
petitions. 1  His  capacious  intelligence  should  not  only 
exercise  itself  on  foreign  affairs,  commerce,  maxims  of 
state,  political  designs,  extension  of  the  frontiers  by 
conquering  new  provinces,  and  ensuring  their  safety  by 
numerous  and  inaccessible  forts  ;  but  also  look  after 
the  affairs  of  his  own  kingdom,  and  study  them  in 
detail ;  banish  from  it  a  false,  insidious,  and  anti  mon- 
archical sect,-  if  such  a  one  exists  ;  abolish  all  barbarous 
and  impious  customs,  if  they  are  to  be  found  there  ;  ^ 
reform  the  abuses  of  laws  and  usages,  for  such  may 
have  crept  in ;  *  render  his  cities  more  safe  and  com- 
fortable  by  establishing  new  police  regulations,  more 

1  All  those  excellent  qualities,  which  La  Bruyere  thinks  are  necessary  to 
a  sovereign,  were  those  generally  attributed  to  Louis  XIV.,  and  which 
Saint-Simon  also  ascribes  to  him  in  his  Memoires. 

2  Another  hit  at  the  revocation  of  the  Edict  of  Nantes. 

3  A  reference  to  the  royal  edicts  against  duelling. 

*  Louis  XIV.,  from  1667  to  1685,  promulgated  several  laws  reforming 
abuses  in  civil  and  criminal  jurisprudence,  and  abolishing  certain  restrictions 
on  trade,  commerce,  etc. 


OF    THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE.  269 

splendid  and  magnificent  by  sumptuous  edifices  ;  punish 
severely  scandalous  vices ;  increase  the  influence  of 
religion  and  virtue  by  his  authority  and  example ;  ^  pro- 
tect the  Church  and  clergy,  their  rights  and  liberties  ;  2 
and  govern  the  nation  like  a  father,  always  intent  on  re- 
lieving it  and  making  the  subsidies  as  light  as  those 
levied  in  the  provinces  ^  without  impoverishing  them. 
He  must  have  great  talents  for  war,  be  vigilant,  diligent, 
and  unwearied,  able  to  command  numerous  armies,  and 
be  composed  in  the  midst  of  danger  ;  he  ought  to  be 
sparing  of  his  own  life  for  the  good  of  the  state,  and 
prefer  its  welfare  and  glory  to  that  very  life  ;  his  power 
must  be  absolute,  to  leave  no  room  for  indirect  influence, 
intrigues  and  factions,  and  sometimes  to  lessen  that  vast 
distance  which  exists  between  the  great  and  the  common 
people,  so  that  they  may  be  drawn  closer  together,  and 
obey  that  power  equally ;  the  knowledge  of  the  prince 
should  be  extensive,  that  he  may  see  everything  with 
his  own  ©yes,  act  immediately  and  by  himself,  so  that 
his  generals,  though  at  a  distance,  are  but  his  lieutenants, 
and  his  ministers  but  his  ministers  ;  *  he  should  be 
sagacious  enough  to  know  when  to  declare  war,  when  to 
conquer  and  make  the  best  use  of  a  victory,  when  to 
make  peace,  and  when  to  break  it ;  when,  sometimes,  to 

1  To  say  that  Louis  XIV.  increased  by  his  example  the  influence  of 
religion  and  virtue,  can  only  apply  to  him  after  his  marriage  with  Madame 
de  Maintenon.     See  page  258,  note  3. 

2  An  allusion  to  the  declaration  of  the  liberties  of  the  Gallican  Church, 
published  in  1682,  and  said  to  be  written  by  Bossuet. 

3  The  commentators  of  La  Bruyere  do  not  explain  why  the  subsidies  to 
be  granted  to  the  king  were  lighter  in  the  provinces.  Can  it  be  that  in 
certain  provinces,  called  pays  dHat,  the  subsidies  voted  by  the  provincial 
states  were  smaller  than  those  voted  by  the  authorities  appointed  by  the 
king. in  those  provinces  not  belonging  to  the  pays  d'etat,  and  called  pays 
dHections  ? 

♦  This  allusion  must  greatly  have  pleased  Louis  XIV.,  who  thought  him- 
self great  as  a  strategist  and  as  a  politician. 


270  OF   THE    SOVEREIGN    AND    THE    STATE. 

compel  his  enemies  to  accept  it,  according  to  the  various 
interests  at  stake ;  to  set  bounds  to  his  vast  ambition, 
and  how  far  to  extend  his  conquests  ;  he  should  find 
leisure  for  games,  festivals,  and  spectacles ;  cultivate 
arts  and  sciences,  and  erect  magnificent  structures,  even 
when  surrounded  by  secret  and  declared  enemies.  To 
conclude,  he  should  possess  a  superior  and  commanding 
genius,  which  renders  him  beloved  by  his  subjects  and 
feared  by  strangers,  and  makes  of  his  court,  and  even  of 
his  entire  realm,  as  it  were,  one  family,  governed  by  one 
head,  living  in  perfect  unison  and  harmony  with  one 
another,  and  thus  formidable  to  the  rest  of  the  world. 
All  these  admirable  virtues  seem  to  me  comprised  in 
the  notion  of  what  a  sovereign  ought  to  be.  It  is  true 
we  rarely  see  them  all  combined  in  one  man,  for  too 
many  adventitious  qualities,  such  as  intelligence,  feelings, 
outward  appearances,  and  natural  disposition,  must  be 
found  at  the  same  time  in  him  ;  it  therefore  appears  to 
me  that  a  prince  who  unites  all  these  in«his  single 
person  well  deserves  the  name  of  Great.^ 

1  Although  this  paragraph  is  only  half  the  size  of  paragraph  12,  page  253, 
there  is  only  one  full  stop  in  it  in  the  original,  and  that  is  at  the  end. 


LOUIS    XIV 


XII. 
OF     MANKIND. 

(i.)  T  ET  us  not  be  angry  with  men  when  we  see  them 
cruel,  ungrateful,  unjust,  proud,  egotists,  and 
forgetful  of  others;  they  are  made  so;  it  is  their  nature; 
we  might  just  as  well  quarrel  with  a  stone  for  falling  to 
the  ground,  or  with  a  fire  when  the  flames  ascend. 

(2.)  In  one  sense  men  are  not  fickle,  or  only  in  trifles  ; 
they  change  their  habits,  language,  outward  appearance, 
their  rules  of  propriety,  and  sometimes  their  taste  ;  but 
they  always  preserve  their  bad  morals,  and  adhere  tena- 
ciously to  what  is  ill  and  to  their  indifiference  for  virtue. 

(3.)  Stoicism  is  a  mere  fancy,  a  fiction,  like  Plato's 


272  OF    MANKIND. 

Republic.  The  Stoics  pretend  a  man  may  laugh  at 
poverty ;  not  feel  insults,  ingratitude,  loss  of  property, 
relatives,  and  friends  ;  look  unconcernedly  on  death,  and 
regard  it  as  a  matter  of  indifference  which  ought  neither 
to  make  him  merry  nor  melancholy  ;  not  let  pleasure  or 
pain  conquer  him ;  be  wounded  or  burned  without 
breathing  the  slightest  sigh  or  shedding  a  single  tear ; 
and  this  phantasm  of  courage  and  imaginary  firmness 
they  are  pleased  to  call  a  philosopher.  They  have 
left  man  with  the  same  faults  they  found  in  him,  and 
did  not  blame  his  smallest  foible.  Instead  of  depicting 
vice  as  something  terrible  or  ridiculous,  which  might 
have  corrected  him,  they  have  limned  an  idea  of  per- 
fection and  heroism  of  which  man  is  not  capable,  and 
they  exhorted  him  to  aim  at  what  is  impossible.  Thus, 
the  philosopher  that  is  to  be,  but  will  never  exist  except 
in  imagination,  finds  himself  naturally,  and  without  any 
exertions  of  his  own,  above  all  events  and  all  ills  ;  the 
most  excruciating  fit  of  the  gout,  the  most  severe  attack 
of  colic,  cannot  draw  from  him  the  least  complaint ; 
Heaven  and  earth  may  be  overturned,  without  dragging 
him  along  in  their  downfall  ;  and  he  remains  calm  and 
collected  amidst  the  ruins  of  the  universe,  whilst  a  man 
really  beside  himself  utters  loud  exclamations,  despairs, 
looks  fierce,  and  is  in  an  agony  for  the  loss  of  a  dog  or 
for  a  China  dish  broken  into  pieces. 

(4.)  Restlessness  of  mind,  inequality  of  temper,  fickle- 
ness of  affections,  and  instability  of  conduct,  are  all  vices 
of  the  mind,  but  they  are  all  different ;  and,  in  spite  ^  of 
their  appearing  analogous,  are  not  always  found  in  one 
and  the  same  subject. 

1  The  original  has  avec,  which,  in  the  seventeenth  century,  often  was  used 
for  "in  spite  of." 


OF    MANKIND.  273 

(5.)  It  is  difficult  to  decide  whether  irresolution  makes 
a  man  more  unfortunate  than  contemptible,  or  even 
whether  it  is  always  a  greater  disadvantage  to  take  a 
wrong  step  than  to  take  none  at  all. 

(6.)  A  man  of  variable  mind  is  not  one  man,  but 
several  men  in  one  ;  he  multiplies  himself  as  often  as  he 
changes  his  taste  and  manners  ;  he  is  not  this  minute 
what  he  was  the  last,  and  will  not  be  the  next  what  he 
is  now ;  he  is  his  own  successor.  Do  not  ask  what  is 
his  nature,  but  what  are  his  proclivities  ;  nor  what  mood 
he  is  in,  but  how  many  sorts  of  moods  he  has.  Are  you 
not  mistaken,  and  is  it  Eutichrates  whom  you  accost  ? 
To-day  he  is  cool  to  you,  but  yesterday  he  was  anxious 
to  see  you,  and  was  so  demonstrative  that  his  friends 
were  jealous  of  you.  Surely  he  does  not  remember  you  ; 
tell  him  your  name. 

(7.)  Menalcas  1  goes  down-stairs,  opens  the  door  to 
go  out,  and  shuts  it  again  ;  he  perceives  that  he  has  his 
nightcap  on,  and  on  looking  at  himself  with  a  little 
more  attention,  he  finds  that  he  is  but  half  shaved, 
that  he  has  fastened  his  sword  on  the  wrong  side,  that 
his  stockings  are  hanging   on  his   heels,    and  that   his 


1  The  author  adds  in  a  note  :  "  This  is  not  so  much  a  portrait  of  one 
individual,  as  a  collection  of  anecdotes  of  absent-minded  persons.  If  they 
please,  there  cannot  be  too  large  a  number  of  them,  for  as  tastes  differ,  my 
readers  can  pick  and  choose."  The  chief  traits  of  Menalcas  are  based  on 
stories  related  by  the  Count  de  Brancas,  who  died  eleven  years  before  the 
above  paragraph  first  saw  the  light  (1691)  ;  others  are  said  to  have  happened 
to  the  Prince  de  la  Roche-sur-Yon,  afterwards  Prince  de  Conti  (1664-170^), 
and  to  a  certain  Abbe  de  Mauroy,  chaplain  to  Mademoiselle  de  Montpen- 
sier.  Eustace  Budgell  (1685-1736)  depicts  in  No.  77  of  the  "Spectator" 
"an  absent  man,"  and  also  speaks  of  Monsieur  Bruyere,  who  "has  given 
us  the  character  of  an  absent  man  with  a  great  deal  of  humour;  "  and  then 
prints  "the  heads"  of  Menalcas'  portrait.  According  to  Watt's  Bibliotheta 
Britannica,  Budgell  was  the  author  of  a  translation  of  La  Bruyere's 
"  Characters,"  published  1699  and  1702;  but  in  the  edition  of  1702  ihere  is 
on  the  title-page,  "  made  English  by  several  hands." 

S 


2  74  OF    MANKIND. 

shirt  is  bulging  out  above  his  breeches.  If  he  walks 
about,  he  feels  something  strike  him  all  at  once  in  the 
stomach  or  in  the  face,  and  he  cannot  imagine  what  it 
is,  until  he  opens  his  eyes  and  wakes  up,  when  he  finds 
himself  before  the  shaft  of  a  cart,  or  behind  a  long  plank 
a  workman  is  carrying.  He  has  been  seen  to  run  his 
head  against  a  blind  man,  and  to  get  entangled  be- 
tween his  legs,  so  that  both  fell  backwards.  Often  he 
meets  a  prince  face  to  face,  who  wishes  to  pass  ;  he 
recollects  himself  with  some  difficulty,  and  scarcely  has 
time  to  squeeze  himself  up  against  the  wall  to  make 
room  for  him.^  He  searches  about,  rummages,  shouts, 
gets  excited,  calls  his  servants  one  after  another,  and 
complains  that  everything  is  lost  or  mislaid  ;  he  asks  for 
his  gloves  which  he  holds  in  his  hands,  like  the  woman 
who  asked  for  the  mask  she  had  on  her  face.  He 
enters  the  rooms  at  Versailles,^  and  passing  under  a 
chandelier,  his  wig  gets  hooked  on  to  one  of  the  brackets 
and  is  left  hanging,  whilst  all  the  courtiers  stare  and 
laugh.  Menalcas  looks  also,  and  laughs  louder  than 
any  of  them,  staring  in  the  meanwhile  at  all  the  com- 
pany to  see  what  man  shows  his  ears  and  has  lost  his 
wig.3  If  he  goes  into  town,*  before  he  has  gone  far  he 
thinks  he  has  lost  his  way,  gets  uneasy,  and  asks  some 
of  the  passers-by  where  he  is,  who  name  to  him  the  very 
street  he  lives  in  ;  he  enters  his  own  house,  runs  out  in 
haste,  and  fancies  he  is  mistaken.  He  comes  out  of  the 
Palais  de  Justice,  and  finding  a  carriage  waiting  at  the 

1  Many  of  the  streets  in  Paris  were  so  narrow  when  our  author  wrote, 
that  two  people  could  hardly  pass  abreast  ;  it  was,  therefore,  the  fashion  to 
"give  the  wall,"  as  it  was  called,  to  persons  of  a  superior  rank. 

2  See  page  243,  note. 

3  The  wigs  were  already  worn  very  long,  and  completely  concealed  the 
ears. 

*  See  page  164,  note  i. 


OF   MANKIND.  275 

bottom  of  the  great  staircase,  he  thinks  it  is  his  own  and 
enters  it ;  the  coachman  just  touches  the  horses  with  his 
whip,  and  supposes  all  the  while  he  is  driving  his  master 
home;  Menalcas  jumps  out,  crosses  the  courtyard,  mounts 
the  stairs,  and  passes  through  the  ante-chamber  and 
ordinary  rooms  into  the  study  ;  but  nothing  is  strange 
or  new  to  him  ;  he  sits  down,  takes  a  rest,  and  feels  him- 
self at  home.  When  the  real  master  of  the  house  arrives, 
he  rises  to  receive  him,  treats  him  very  politely,  begs 
him  to  be  seated,  and  believes  he  is  doing  the  honours 
of  his  own  room  ;  he  talks,  muses,  and  talks  again  ;  the 
master  of  the  house  is  tired  and  amazed,  and  Menalcas 
as  much  as  he,  though  he  does  not  say  what  he  thinks, 
but  supposes  the  other  is  some  bore  who  has  nothing  to 
do,  and  will  leave  soon — at  least  he  hopes  so,  and  remains 
patient ;  yet  it  is  almost  night  before  he  is  undeceived, 
and  that  with  some  difficulty.  Another  time  he  pays  a 
visit  to  a  lady,  and  imagines  that  she  is  visiting  him ;  he 
sits  down  in  her  arm-chair  ^  without  any  thought  of  giving 
it  up  ;  it  then  seems  to  him  that  the  lady  is  somewhat 
long  in  her  visit,  and  he  expects  every  moment  that  she 
will  rise  and  leave  him  at  liberty ;  but  as  she  delays,  he 
is  growing  hungry,  and  night  coming  on,  he  invites  her 
to  have  some  supper  with  him,  at  which  she  bursts  out 
in  such  loud  laughter  that  he  comes  to  himself.  He 
marries  in  the  morning,  but  has  forgotten  it  at  night,  and 
does  not  sleep  at  home  on  his  wedding-night ;  some  time 
afterwards  his  wife  dies  in  his  arms,  and  he  is  present 
at  her  funeral ;  the  next  day  one  of  the  servants  informs 
him  that  dinner  is  on  the  table,  when  he  asks  if  his 
wife  is  already  dressed  and  if  they  have  told  her  it  is 

1  There  was  usually  only  one  or  two  arm-chairs]  in  a  reception-room, 
reserved  for  the  master  or  mistress  of  the  house,  or  for  both. 


276  OF    MANKIND. 

served  up.  He  enters  a  church,  and  takes  a  blind  man, 
always  stationed  at  the  door,  for  a  pillar,  and  the  plate 
he  holds  in  his  hands  for  a  holy-water  basin,  into  which 
he  dips  his  hands  ;  and  when  he  makes  the  sign  of  the 
cross  on  his  forehead,  he,  on  a  sudden,  hears  the  pillar 
speak  and  beg  for  alms  ;  he  walks  through  the  aisle,  and 
fancying  he  sees  a  praying-chair,  throws  himself  heavily 
on  it;  the  chair  bends,  gives  way,  and  strives  to  cry  out  ;i 
Menalcas  is  surprised  to  find  himself  kneeling  on  the 
legs  of  a  very  little  man,  and  leaning  on  his  back,  with 
both  his  arms  on  his  shoulders,  his  folded  hands  ex- 
tended, taking  him  by  the  nose  and  stopping  his  mouth  ; 
he  is  quite  confused,  withdraws,  and  goes  and  kneels 
elsewhere.  He  takes  out  his  prayer-book  as  he  thinks, 
but  he  pulls  out  a  slipper  instead,  which  he  had  inadver- 
tently put  into  his  pocket  before  he  went  out ;  he  has 
hardly  left  the  church  when  a  footman  runs  after  him, 
comes  up  to  him,  and  asks  him,  with  a  laugh,  if  he  has 
not  got  the  bishop's  slipper  ;  Menalcas  produces  his, 
and  assures  him  that  he  has  no  other  slippers  about 
him  ;  but,  however,  after  searching  he  finds  the  slipper 
of  his  lordship,  whom  he  has  just  been  visiting,  had 
found  indisposed  at  his  fireside,  and  whose  slipper  he 
had  pocketed  before  he  took  his  leave,  instead  of  one  of 
his  gloves  he  had  dropt  ;  so  that  Menalcas  returns  home 
with  one  slipper  less.  One  day  whilst  gambling  he  lost 
all  the  money  he  had  about  him,  and,  as  he  wished  to 
continue,  he  went  into  his  private  room,  unlocked  a  cup- 
board, took  out  his  cash-box,  helped  himself  to  whatever 
he  pleased,  and  then  thought  he  put  it  back  again  in  its 
former  place ;  but  he  heard  some  barking  going  on  in 
the  cupboard  he  just   locked,  and,  quite  astonished  at 

1  It  was  repcrted  that  Brancas,  clievalier  cthonneur  o(  the  queen-mother, 


OF    MANKIND.  277 

this  marvellous  occurrence,  he  opened  it  again,  and 
burst  out  laughing  on  beholding  his  dog  he  had  locked 
up  instead  of  his  cash-box.  Whilst  he  is  playing  back- 
gammon he  asks  for  something  to  drink,  which  is  brought 
him  ;  it  is  his  turn  to  play,  and,  holding  the  box  in 
one  hand  and  the  glass  in  the  other,  and  being  very 
thirsty,  he  gulps  down  the  dice  and  almost  the  box, 
whilst  the  water  is  thrown  on  the  board,  and  quite  wets 
the  person  he  is  playing  with.  One  day  being  in  a  room 
with  a  family  with  whom  he  was  very  intimate,  he  spits 
on  the  bed,  and  throws  his  hat  on  the  ground,  thinking 
he  is  spitting  on  the  floor  and  shying  his  hat  on  the  bed. 
Once  on  the  river  he  asked  what  o'clock  it  was  ;  they 
hand  him  a  watch,  but  it  is  scarcely  in  his  hands  when 
he  forgets  both  the  time  and  the  watch,  and  throws  the 
latter  into  the  river  as  a  thing  which  bothers  him.  He 
writes  a  long  letter,  throws  some  sand  on  his  paper,  ^  and 
then  pours  the  sand  into  the  inkstand  ;  but  that  is  not 
all.  He  writes  a  second  letter,  and  after  having  sealed 
both,  he  makes  a  mistake  in  addressing  them  ;  one  of 
them  is  sent  to  a  duke  and  peer  of  the  realm,  who,  on 
opening  it,  reads  :  "  Mr.  OHver, — Pray  don't  fail  to  send 
me  my  provision  of  hay  as  soon  as  you  receive  this 
letter."  His  farmer  receives  the  other  letter,  opens  it, 
has  it  read  to  him,  and  finds  in  it :  "  My  lord, — I  receive 
with  the  utmost  submission  the  orders  which  it  has 
pleased  your  highness,"  and  so  on.  He  writes  another 
letter  at  night,  and  after  sealing  it,  puts  out  the  light ; 
yet  is  surprised  to  be  on  a  sudden  in  the  dark,  and  is  at 

Anne  of  Austria  (1602-1666),  behaved  in  almost  a  similar  manner  to  his 
royal  mistress. 

1  Blotting-paper  was  not  invented  when  cur  author  wrote  ;  even  now  it  is 
not  unusual  abroad  to  find  the  ink  of  letters  dried  with  sand,  either  plain 
or  coloured. 


278  OF    MANKIND. 

a  loss  to  conceive  how  it  has  happened.  Coming  down 
the  Louvre  staircase,  Menalcas  meets  another  person 
coming  up,  and  exclaims  that  the  latter  is  the  very  man 
he  is  looking  for ;  he  takes  him  by  the  hand,  and  they 
go  down-stairs  together,  cross  several  courtyards,  enter 
some  apartments,  and  come  out  again  ;  he  moves  about, 
and  returns  whence  he  started ;  then,  looking  more 
narrowly  at  the  man  he  has  thus  been  dragging  after 
him  for  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  he  wonders  who  it  is, 
has  nothing  to  say  to  him,  lets  go  his  hand,  and  turns 
another  way.  He  often  asks  a  question,  and  is  almost 
out  of  sight  before  it  is  possible  to  answer  him  ;  or  else 
he  will  ask  you,  whilst  he  is  running  about,  how  your 
father  is,  and  when  you  answer  him  that  he  is  seriously 
unwell,  he  will  shout  to  you  that  he  is  very  glad  to  hear 
it.  Another  time,  if  you  fall  in  his  way,  he  is  delighted 
to  meet  you,  and  says  he  has  just  come  from  your  house 
to  talk  to  you  on  a  certain  matter  of  business  ;  then, 
looking  at  your  hand,  he  exclaims,  "  That's  a  fine  ruby 
you  wear  ;  is  it  a  balass  ruby  ?  "  ^  and  then  he  leaves 
you,  and  goes  on  his  way ;  this  is  the  important  matter 
of  business  he  was  so  anxious  to  talk  to  you  about.  If 
he  is  in  the  countr}',  he  tells  some  person  he  must  feel 
happy  he  has  been  able  to  leave  the  court  in  the  autumn 
and  to  have  spent  on  his  estate  all  the  time  the  court 
was  at  Fontainebleau  ;  ^  whilst  to  other  people  he 
talks  about  something  else  ;  then,  going  back  to  the 
first,  he  says  to  him,  "  You  have  had  some  very  fine 
weather  at  Fontainebleau,  and  you  must  have  followed 

1  Balais  in  French,  a  kind  of  pale-coloured  ruby,  so  called,  according  to 
Littre's  Dictionnatre,  from  Balakschan  or  Balaschan,  not  far  from  Samar- 
cand. 

2  The  king  used  to  hunt  at  Fontainebleau  almost  every  day  in  October. 
See  also  page  174,  rote  4. 


OF    MANKIND.  279 

the  royal  hunt  pretty  often,"  He  begins  a  story  which 
he  forgets  to  finish  ;  he  laughs  to  himself,  and  that  aloud, 
at  something  he  is  thinking  of,  and  replies  to  his  own 
thoughts  ;  he  hums  a  tune,  whistles,  throws  himself  into 
a  chair,  sends  forth  a  pitiful  whine,  yawns,  and  thinks 
himself  alone.  When  he  is  at  a  dinner  party  he  gradually 
gathers  all  the  bread  on  his  own  plate,  and  his  neigh- 
bours have  none  ;  and  he  does  the  same  with  the  knives 
and  forks,  which  do  not  remain  long  in  their  hands. 
Lately  some  large  spoons,  convenient  for  helping  every 
one,  have  been  introduced  at  certain  tables  ;  he  lakes 
one  of  these  spoons,  plunges  it  into  the  dish,  fills  it,  puts 
it  into  his  mouth,  and  is  highly  astonished  to  see  the 
soup  he  has  just  taken  all  over  his  clothes  and  linen. 
He  forgets  to  drink  at  dinner,  or,  if  he  remembers  it, 
thinks  there  is  too  much  wine  poured  out  for  him  ;  he 
flings  more  than  half  of  it  in  the  face  of  a  gentleman 
seated  at  his  right  hand,  drinks  the  rest  with  a  great 
deal  of  composure,  and  cannot  understand  why  every- 
body should  burst  out  laughing  for  throwing  on  the  floor 
the  wine  he  did  not  wish  to  drink.^  He  keeps  his  bed 
a  day  or  two  for  a  slight  indisposition,  and  a  goodly 
number  of  ladies  and  gentlemen  visit  him,  and  converse 
with  him  in  the  ruelle  ;  ^  in  their  presence  he  lifts  up  the 

1  There  existed  a  great  deal  of  coarseness  at  the  court  of  Louis  XIV. 
underneath  a  semblance  of  extreme  polish  and  refinement,  and  some  of  the 
stories  told  by  Saint-Simon  of  the  habits  and  customs  of  the  king  himself 
would  not  bear  repeating  at  the  present  time,  and  even  be  considered  dis- 
graceful by  the  lowest  classes  of  society.  As  an  example  of  this  general 
coarseness,  it  will,  no  doubt,  have  been  observed  that  it  was  the  usual  habit 
of  decent  people  to  expectorate  on  the  floor  (see  page  277,  line  12),  as  well  as 
to  throw  there  the  wine  they  did  not  wish  to  drink  ;  for  Menalcas  is  only 
laughed  at  for  his  absence  of  mind,  and  not  for  his  bad  habits.  See  also 
in  the  chapter  "Of  the  Gifts  of  Fortune,"!  83,  the  character  of  Phaedo,  page 
161,  and  in  the  chapter  "'Of  Society,  etc.,"  the  character  of  Troilus,  page 
106,  §  13. 

2  See  page  65,  note  i. 


2  8o  OF    MANKIND. 

blankets  and  spits  in  the  sheets.  He  is  taken  to  the 
Convent  of  the  Carthusians,  where  they  show  him  a  gallery 
adorned  with  paintings,  all  executed  by  the  hand  of  a 
master  ;  ^  the  monk  who  explains  the  subjects  persis- 
tently expatiates  on  the  life  of  Saint  Bruno,  and  points 
out  the  adventure  with  the  canon  in  one  of  the  pictures. 2 
Menalcas,  whose  thoughts  are  all  the  while  wandering 
away  from  the  gallery,  and  far  beyond  it,  returns  to  it 
at  last,  and  asks  the  monk  whether  it  is  the  canon  or 
Saint  Bruno  who  is  damned.  Being  once,  as  it  happened, 
with  a  young  widow,  he  talks  to  her  of  her  deceased 
husband,  and  asks  of  what  he  died ;  this  conversation 
renews  all  the  sorrows  of  the  lady,  who,  amidst  tears  and 
sobs,  tells  him  all  the  particulars  of  her  late  husband's 
illness,  from  the  night  he  first  was  attacked  by  fever  to 
his  final  agony  ;  whereupon  Menalcas,  who  apparently 
listens  to  her  narrative  with  great  attention,  asks  her 
if  the  deceased  was  her  only  husband.  One  morning 
he  gets  it  into  his  head  to  hurry  on  everything  for  dinner  ; 
but  he  rises  before  the  dessert  is  brought  on,  and  leaves 
his  guests  by  themselves.  That  day  he  is  sure  to  be  seen 
everywhere  in  town  except  on  the  spot  where  he  has 
made  an  appointment  about  the  very  business  which 
prevented  him  finishing  his  dinner,  and  made  him  walk, 
for  fear  it  would  take  too  long  a  time  to  get  the  horses 
and  carriage  ready.  You  may  frequently  hear  him  shout, 
scold,  and  get  in  a  rage  about  one  of  his  servants  being 
out  of  the  way.     "  Where  can  that  man  be  ?  "  says  he  ; 

1  In  the  Convent  of  the  Carthusians,  then  near  the  Luxembourg,  were  to 
be  found  the  twenty-two  celebrated  pictures  of  Eustache  Lesueur  (1616-1655), 
representing  the  history  of  Saint  Bruno,  founder  of  that  order,  who  died 
in  iioi.     The  greater  part  of  these  pictures  is  now  in  the  Louvre. 

'^  This  picture  represents  the  burial  of  an  eloquent  and  learned  canon, 
who,  whilst  being  carried  to  the  tomb,  rose  in  his  coffin,  exclaimed  that  he 
was  damned,  and  fell  back  again. 


OF   MANKIND.  28 1 

"  what  can  he  be  doing  ?  what  has  become  of  him  ?  Let 
him  never  more  present  himself  before  me  ;  I  discharge 
him  this  very  minute  ! "  The  servant  makes  his  appear- 
ance, and  he  asks  him,  in  a  contemptuous  tone,  where 
he  comes  from  ;  the  man  rephes  he  has  been  where  he 
was  sent  to,  and  gives  a  faithful  account  of  his  errand. 
You  would  often  take  Menalcas  for  what  he  is  not,  for 
an  idiot ;  for  he  does  not  listen,  and  speaks  still  less  ;  for 
a  madman,  because  he  talks  to  himself,  and  indulges  in 
certain  grimaces  and  involuntary  motions  of  the  head ; 
for  proud  and  discourteous,  because  when  you  bow  to 
him,  he  may  pass  without  looking  at  you,  or  look  at 
you  and  not  return  your  bow ;  for  a  man  without  any 
feeling,  for  he  talks  of  bankruptcy  in  a  family  where 
there  is  such  a  blot ;  of  executions  and  the  scaffold 
before  a  person  whose  father  has  been  beheaded  ;  of 
plebeians  before  plebeians  who  have  become  rich  and 
pretend  to  be  of  noble  birth.  He  even  intends  to 
bring  up  his  illegitimate  son  in  his  house,  and  pretends 
he  is  a  servant ;  and  though  he  would  have  his  wife  and 
children  know  nothing  about  the  matter,  he  cannot  for- 
bear calling  him  his  son  every  hour  of  the  day.  He 
resolves  to  let  his  son  marry  the  daughter  of  some  man 
of  business,  yet  he  now  and  then  boasts  of  his  birth  and 
ancestors,  and  that  no  Menalcas  has  ever  made  a  mis- 
alliance. In  short,  he  seems  to  be  absent  minded,  and 
to  pay  no  attention  to  the  conversation  going  on  ;  he 
thinks  and  speaks  at  the  same  time,  but  what  he  says  is 
seldom  about  what  he  thinks  ;  so  that  there  is  hardly 
any  coherence  and  sequence  in  his  talk ;  he  often  says 
"  yes  "  when  he  should  say  "no,"  and  when  he  says  "  no," 
you  must  suppose  he  would  say  "  yes."  When  he  answers 
you  so  pertinently,  his  eyes  are  fixed  on  your  countenance, 


262  OF    MANKIND. 

but  it  does  not  follow  that  he  sees  you  ;  he  looks  neither 
at  you  nor  at  any  one,  nor  at  anything  in  the  world.  All 
that  you  can  draw  from  him,  even  when  he  is  most 
sociable  and  most  attentive,  are  some  such  words  as 
these  :  "  Yes,  indeed  ;  it  is  true  ;  very  well ;  really  ; 
indeed  ;  I  believe  so  ;  certainly ;  O  Heaven  ! "  and  some 
other  monosyllables,  even  not  always  used  on  the  right 
occasions.  He  never  is  with  those  with  whom  he  appears 
to  be  ;  he  calls  his  footman  very  seriously  "  Sir,"  and 
his  friend  "  La  Verdure  ;"i  says  "  Your  Reverence"  to  a 
prince  of  the  royal  blood,  and  "Your  Highness"  to  a 
Jesuit.  When  he  is  at  mass,  and  the  priest  sneezes, 
he  cries  out  aloud,  "  God  bless  you  ! "  He  is  in  the 
company  of  a  magistrate  of  serious  disposition,  and 
venerable  by  his  age  and  dignity,  who  asks  him  whether 
a  certain  event  happened  in  such  and  such  a  way,  and 
Menalcas  replies,  "  Yes,  miss."  As  he  came  one  day 
from  the  country,  his  footmen  pletted  to  rob  him  and 
succeeded  ;  they  jumped  down  from  behind  his  coach, 
presented  the  end  of  a  torch  to  his  breast,  and  demanded 
his  purse,  which  he  gave  up.  2  When  he  came  home  he 
tpld  his  friends  what  had  happened,  and  when  they 
asked  for  details  he  said  they  had  better  inquire  of  his 
servants,  who  also  were  present. 

(8.)  Impoliteness  is  not  a  vice  of  the  mind,  but  the 
consequence  of  several  vices  ;  of  foolish  vanity,  of  ignor- 
ance of  one's  duties,  of  idleness,  of  stupidity,  of  absence 
of  mind,  of  contempt  for  others,  and  of  jealousy.  Though 
it  only  shows  itself  outwardly,  it  is  not  the  less  odious, 

1  See  page  138,  note  3. 

2  Taliemant  des  Reaux,  in  his  HistorUttes,  tells  a  more  probable  story  of 
de  Brancas,  how  one  day,  being  on  horseback  and  stopped  by  footpads,  he 
mistook  them  for  footmen,  and  ordered  them  to  let  go  his  horse,  and  how 
he  did  not  find  out  his  mistake  till  they  clapt  a  pistol  to  his  breast. 


OF    MANKIND.  283 

because  it  is  a  fault  which  is  always  visible  and  manifest ; 
however,  it  gives  more  or  less  oflfence,  according  as  the 
motives  for  displaying  it  are  more  or  less  offensive. 

(9.)  If  we  say  of  an  angry,  captious,  quarrelsome, 
melancholy,  formal,  capricious  person,  that  it  is  all  owing 
to  his  temper,  it  is  not  to  find  an  excuse  for  him,  what- 
ever people  may  think,  but  an  involuntary  acknowledg- 
ment that  such  great  faults  admit  of  no  remedy. 

What  we  call  good  temper  is  a  thing  too  much 
neglected  among  men  ;  they  ought  to  understand  that 
they  should  not  alone  be  good,  but  also  appear  to  be  so, 
at  least  if  they  are  inclined  to  be  sociable  and  disposed 
to  friendly  intercourse  ;  in  other  words,  if  they  would  be 
men.  We  do  not  require  wicked  men  to  be  gentle  and 
urbane ;  in  these  qualities  they  are  never  wanting,  for 
they  employ  them  to  ensnare  the  simple,  and  to  find  a 
larger  field  for  their  operations  ;  but  we  wish  kind-hearted 
men  always  to  be  tractable,  accessible,  and  courteous  ; 
so  that  there  should  no  longer  be  any  reason  for  saying 
that  wicked  men  do  harm  and  that  good  men  make 
others  uncomfortable. 

(10.)  The  generality  of  men  proceed  from  anger  to 
insults  ;  others  act  differently,  for  they  first  give  offence 
and  then  grow  angry  ;  our  surprise  at  such  behaviour 
always  supersedes  resentment. 

(i  I.)  Men  do  not  sufficiently  take  advantage  of  every 
opportunity  for  pleasing  other  people.  When  a  per- 
son accepts  a  certain  post,  it  seems  that  he  intends 
to  acquire  the  power  of  obliging  others  without  using 
it ;  nothing  is  quicker  and  more  readily  given  than  a 
refusal,  whilst  nothing  is  ever  granted  until  after  mature 
reflection. 

(12.)  Know  exactly  what  you  are  to  expect  from  men 


284  OF    MANKIND. 

in  general,  and  from  each  of  them  in  particular,  and 
then  mix  with  the  people  around  you. 

(13.)  If  poverty  is  the  mother  of  all  crimes,  lack  of 
intelligence  is  their  father. 

(14.)  A  knave  can  hardly  be  a  very  intelligent  man  ; 
a  clear  and  far-seeing  mind  leads  to  regularity,  honesty, 
and  virtue  ;  it  is  want  of  sense  and  penetration  which 
begets  obstinacy  in  wickedness  as  well  as  in  duplicity  ; 
in  vain  we  endeavour  to  correct  such  a  man  by  satire  ; 
it  may  describe  him  to  others,  but  he  himself  will  not 
know  his  own  picture  ;  it  is  like  scolding  a  deaf  man. 
It  would  be  well,  please  gentlemen  of  sense  and  culture, 
and  avenge  everybody,  if  a  rogue  were  not  so  consti- 
tuted as  to  be  without  any  feeling  whatever. 

(15.)  There  are  some  vices  for  which  we  are  indebted 
to  none  but  ourselves,  which  are  innate  in  us,  and  are 
strengthened  by  habit ;  there  are  others  we  contract 
which  are  foreign  to  us.  Sometimes  men  are  naturally 
inclined  to  yield  without  much  difficulty,  to  be  urbane, 
and  to  desire  to  please  ;  but  by  the  treatment  they  meet 
from  those  whom  they  frequent  and  on  whom  they 
depend,  they  soon  lose  all  moderation,  and  even  change 
their  disposition ;  they  grow  melancholy  and  peevish 
to  a  degree  ere  this  unknown  to  them  ;  their  temper  is 
completely  changed,  and  they  are  themselves  astonished 
at  their  being  rude  and  tetchy. 

(16.)  Some  people  ask  why  the  whole  bulk  of  man- 
kind does  not  constitute  one  nation,  and  does  not  like 
to  speak  the  same  language,  obey  the  same  laws,  and 
agree  among  themselves  to  adopt  the  same  customs 
and  the  same  worship  ?  For  my  part,  observing  how 
greatly  minds,  tastes,  and  sentiments  differ,  I  am  aston- 
ished to  see  seven  or  eight  persons,  living  under  the 


OF    MANKIND.  285 

same  roof  and  within  the  same  walls,  constitute  one 
family.  1 

(17.)  There  are  some  extraordinary  fathers,  who  seem, 
during  the  whole  course  of  their  lives,  to  be  preparing 
reasons  for  their  children  for  being  consoled  at  their 
deaths.  2 

(18.)  Everything  is  strange  in  the  dispositions,  morals, 
and  manners  of  men  :  one  person  who  during  his  whole 
lifetime  has  been  melancholy,  passionate,  avaricious, 
fawning,  submissive,  laborious,  and  egotistical,  was  bom 
lively,  peaceable,  indolent,  ostentatious,  and  with  lofty 
feelings,  abhorring  anything  base  ;  want,  circumstances, 
and  dire  necessity  have  compelled  him  and  caused  such  a 
great  change.  Such  a  man's  inmost  feelings  can  really 
not  be  described,  for  too  many  external  things  have 
altered,  changed,  and  upset  him,  so  that  he  is  not  exactly 
what  he  thinks  he  is  himself  or  what  he  appears  to  be. 

(19.)  Life  is  short  and  tedious,  and  is  wholly  spent  t 
in  wishing  ;  we  trust  to  find  rest  and  enjoyment  at  some 
future  time,  often  at  an  age  when  our  best  blessings, 
youth  and  health,  have  already  left  us.  When  at  last  I 
that  time  has  arrived,  it  surprises  us  in  the  midst  of  fresh  \ 
desires ;  we  have  got  no  farther  when  we  are  attacked  | 
by  a  fever  which  kills  us  ;  if  we  had  been  cured,  it  would  J 
only  have  been  to  give  us  more  time  for  other  desires. 

(20.)  A  man  requesting  a  favour  from  another,  sur- 
renders himself  at  discretion  to  the  personage  from 
whom  he  expects  it,  but  when  he  is  quite  sure  it  will  be 
granted,  he  temporises,  parleys,  and  capitulates. 


^  Compare  what  our  author  says  in  the  above  paragraph  with  the  remarks 
he  makes  in  §  21,  page  260,  and  §  34,  page  266. 

'  One  of  these  fathers  appears  to  have  been  the  Duke  de  Gesvres  (1620- 
1704),  who  spent  all  his  money  on  purpose  not  to  leave  any  to  his  children. 


286  OF    MANKIND. 

(21.)  It  is  SO  usual  for  men  not  to  be  happy,  and  so 
essential  for  every  blessing  to  be  acquired  with  infinite 
trouble,  that  what  is  obtained  easily  is  looked  upon  with 
suspicion.  We  can  hardly  understand  how  anything 
which  costs  us  so  little  can  be  greatly  to  our  advantage, 
or  how  by  strictly  honest  means  we  can  so  easily  obtain 
what  we  want ;  we  may  think  we  deserve  our  success, 
but  we  ought  very  seldom  to  depend  on  it. 

(22.)  A  man  who  says  he  is  not  born  happy  may  at 
least  become  so  by  the  happiness  his  friends  and  rela- 
tives enjoy,  but  envy  deprives  him  even  of  this  last 
resource. 

(23.)  Whatever  I  may  somewhere  have  said,^  it  is, 
perhaps,  wrong  to  be  dejected.  Men  seem  born  to 
misfortune,  pain,  and  poverty,  and  as  few  escape  this, 
and  as  every  kind  of  calamity  seems  to  befall  them, 
they  ought  to  be  prepared  for  every  misfortune. 

(24.)  Men  find  it  so  very  difficult  to  make  business 
arrangements,  they  are  so  very  touchy  where  their 
smallest  interests  are  concerned,  they  are  so  bristling 
over  with  difificulties,  so  willing  to  deceive  and  so  unwill- 
ing to  be  deceived,  they  place  so  high  a  value  on  what 
belongs  to  themselves,  and  are  so  apt  to  undervalue  what 
belongs  to  others,  that  I  admit  I  cannot  understand 
how  and  in  what- way  marriages,  contracts,  acquisitions, 
conventions,  truces,  treaties,  and  alliances  are  brought 
about. 

(25.)  Among  some  people  arrogance  supplies  the 
place  of  grandeur,  inhumanity  of  decision,  and  roguery 
of  intelligence. 

Knaves  easily  believe  others  as  bad  as  themselves ; 
there  is  no  deceiving  them,  neither  do  they  long  deceive. 

'  See  the  chapter  "  Of  Society,"  §  63. 


OF    MANKIND.  287 

I  would  rather  at  any  time  be  considered  a  fool  than 
a  rogue. 

We  never  deceive  people  to  benefit  them,  for  knavery 
is  a  compound  of  wickedness  and  falsehood. 

(26.)  If  there  were  not  so  many  dupes  in  this  world- 
there  would  be  fewer  of  those  men  called  shrewd  or 
sharp,  who  are  honoured  for  having  been  artful  enough 
in  deceiving  others  during  the  whole  course  of  their  lives, 
and  are  proud  of  having  done  so.  Why  should  you  expect 
Erophilus  not  to  presume  on  himself  and  his  shrewdness, 
whose  breach  of  faith,  bad  actions,  and  roguery,  instead 
of  doing  him  any  harm,  have  procured  him  favours  and 
rewards,  even  from  those  whom  he  has  either  never  served 
or  to  whom  he  has  done  an  ill  turn  ? 

(27.)  We  hear  nothing  in  the  squares  and  in  the 
streets  of  great  cities,  and  out  of  the  mouths  of  the^ 
passers-by,  but  such  words  as  "  writs,  executions,  interro- 
gatories, bonds,  and  pleadings."  Is  there  not  the  smallest | 
equity  more  left  in  this  world  ?  Or  is  it,  on  the  contrary, 
full  of  people  who  coolly  ask  for  what  is  not  due  to  them, 
or  who  distinctly  refuse  to  pay  what  they  owe  ? 

The  invention  of  legal  documents  to  remind  men  of 
what  they  promised,  and  to  convince  them  that  they  did 
so,  is  a  shame  to  humanity. 

If  you  suppress  passion,  interest,  and  injustice,  how 
quiet  would  the  greatest  cities  be  !  The  necessities  of 
life,  and  the  means  of  satisfying  them,  are  the  cause  of 
nearly  half  the  difficulties. 

(28.)  Nothing  is  of  greater  assistance  to  a  man  for 
bearing  quietly  the  wrongs  done  to  him  by  relatives  and 
friends  than  his  reflections  on  the  vices  of  humanity  ; 
on  the  difficulty  men  have  in  being  constant,  generous, 
and  faithful,  or  on  their  loving  anything  better  than  their 


288  OF    MANKIND. 

own  interests.  He  knows  the  extent  of  their  power,  and 
does  not  require  them  to  penetrate  soHd  bodies,  to  fly 
in  the  air,  or  to  give  every  one  his  due  ;  he  may  dislike 
mankind  in  general  for  having  no  greater  respect  for 
virtue  ;  but  he  finds  excuses  for  individuals,  and  even 
loves  them  from  higher  motives,  whilst  he  does  his  best 
to  require  himself  as  little  indulgence  as  possible. 

(29.)  There  are  certain  things  which  we  most  pas- 
sionately desire,  and  of  which  the  mere  thought  carries 
us  away  and  throws  us  into  an  ecstasy  :  if  we  happen 
to  obtain  them,  we  are  less  sensible  of  them  than  we 
thought  we  should  be,  and  we  enjoy  them  the  less  be- 
cause we  aspire  to  get  some  of  greater  importance. 

(30.)  There  exist  some  evils  so  terrible  and  some 
misfortunes  so  horrible  that  we  dare  not  think  of  them, 
whilst  their  very  aspect  makes  us  shudder ;  but  if  they 
happen  to  fall  on  us,  we  find  ourselves  stronger  than  we 
imagined ;  we  grapple  with  our  ill  luck,  and  behave 
better  than  we  expected  we  should. 

(31.)  Sometimes  a  pretty  house  which  we  inherit,  or 
a  fine  horse,  or  a  handsome  dog  which  is  given  to  us, 
or  some  hangings,  or  a  clock  presented  to  us,  will 
alleviate  a  great  grief,  and  make  us  feel  less  acutely  a 
great  loss. 

(32.)  Suppose  men  were  to  live  for  ever  in  this  world, 
I  do  not  think  I  could  discover  what  more  they  could 
do  than  they  do  at  present. 

(33.)  If  life  be  wretched,  it  is  hard  to  bear  it;  if  it 
be  happy,  it  is  horrible  to  lose  it ;  both  come  to  the 
same  thing. 

(34.)  There  is  nothing  men  are  so  anxious  to  keep, 
and  yet  are  so  careless  about,  as  life. 


OF    MANKIND.  289 

(35.)  Irene  is  at  great  cost  conveyed  to  Epidaurus  ;  ^ 
she  visits  ^sculapius  in  his  temple,  and  consults  him 
about  all  her  ailings.  She  complains  first  that  she  is 
weary  and  excessively  fatigued,  and  the  god  replies 
that  the  long  journey  she  just  made  is  the  cause  of 
this  ;  she  says  that  she  is  not  inclined  to  eat  any 
supper,  and  the  oracle  orders  her  to  eat  less  dinner ; 
she  adds  she  cannot  sleep  at  night,  and  he  prescribes 
her  to  lie  a-bed  by  day ;  she  complains  of  her  cor- 
pulency, and  asks  how  it  can  be  prevented ;  the  oracle 
replies  she  should  get  up  before  noon  and  now  and  then 
use  her  legs  to  walk ;  she  declares  that  wine  disagrees 
with  her,  the  oracle  bids  her  drink  water  ;  she  suffers 
from  indigestion,  and  he  tells  her  she  must  diet  herself. 
"  My  sight  begins  to  fail  me,"  says  Irene.  "  Use 
spectacles,"  says  vEsculapius.  "  I  grow  weak,"  con- 
tinues she ;  "  I  am  not  half  so  strong  nor  so  healthy  as 
I  was."  "  You  grow  old,"  says  the  god.  "  But  how," 
asks  she,  "  can  I  get  rid  of  this  disease  ? "  "  The  shortest 
way  to  cure  it,  Irene,  is  to  die,  as  your  mother  and 
grandmother  have  done."  "  Son  of  Apollo  !  "  exclaimed 
Irene,  "is  this  all  the  advice  you  give  me?  Is  this 
the  skill  praised  by  all,  and  for  which  every  one  reveres 
you  ?  What  rare  and  secret  things  did  you  tell  me,  and 
what  remedies  have  you  prescribed  for  me,  which  I  did 
not  know  before  ? "  "  Why  did  you  not  take  these, 
then,"  the  god  replied,  "  without  coming  such  a  long 
distance  to  consult  me,  and  shortening  your  days  by 
such  a  tedious  journey  ?  "  ^ 

'  Epidaurus,  a  city  of  Peloponnesus,  where  yEsculapius,  the  god  of 
medicine  and  a  son  of  Apollo,  was  worshipped. 

2  This  paragraph  appeared  for  the  first  time  in  the  eighth  edition  of  the 
"  Characters,"  published  in  1694,  three  years  after  the  former  favourite  of 
Louis  XIV.,  Madame  de  Montetpan,  had  left  tha  court,  and  aoout  ten 

T 


290  OF   MANKIND. 

(36.)  Death  happens  but  once,  yet  we  feel  it  every 
moment  of  our  lives  ;  it  is  worse  to  dread  it  than  to 
suffer  it 

(37.)  Restlessness,  fear,  and  dejection  cannot  delay 
death,  but,  on  the  contrary,  hasten  it ;  I  only  question 
whether  man,  who  is  mortal,  should  indulge  in  much 
laughing. 

(38.)  Whatever  is  certain  in  death  is  slightly  alleviated 
by  what  is  not  so  infallible ;  the  time  when  it  shall 
happen  is  undefined,  but  it  is  more  or  less  connected 
with  the  infinite,  and  what  we  call  eternity. 

(39.)  When  we  are  sighing  for  the  loss  of  our  past 
blooming  youth,  which  will  return  no  more,  let  us  think 
that  decrepitude  will  come,  when  we  shall  regret  the 
mature  age  we  have  reached  and  do  not  sufficiently 
value. 

(40.)  The  fear  of  old  age  disturbs  us,  yet  we  are  not 
certain  of  becoming  old. 

(41.)  W^e  hope  to  grow  old,  and  yet  we  dread  old  age  ; 
or,  in  other  words,  we  are  willing  to  live,  and  afraid  to  die. 
(42.)  A  man  had  better  yield  to  nature  and  fear 
death,  than  be  engaged  in  continual  conflicts,  provide 
himself  with  arguments  and  reflections,  and  be  always 
combating  his  own  feelings  in  order  not  to  fear  it. 

(43.)  If  some  persons  died,  and  others  did  not  die, 
death  would  indeed  be  a  terrible  affliction. 


years  after  he  had  married  Madame  de  Maintenon.  Madame  de  Montes- 
pan  had  then  become  an  imaginary  invalid,  and  made  frequent  journeys 
to  take  the  waters  at  different  places,  and  chiefly  to  Boiirbon-rArcham- 
baud,  where,  it  is  said,  a  doctor  made  her  a  similar  answer  as  recorded 
above.  It  is  doubtful  whether  La  Biuyere  would  have  spoken  of  her  cor- 
pulency, failing  sight,  and  her  growing  old  if  Madame  de  Montespan 
had  still  remained  a  favourite;  his  former  pupil,  the  Duke  de  Bourbon, 
had  married,  in  1685,  Mademoiselle  de  Nantes,  one  of  her  daughters  by 
Lijuis  XIV. 


OF    MANKIND.  29 1 

(44.)  A  long  disease  seems  to  be  a  halting  place 
between  life  and  death,  that  death  itself  may  be  a  com- 
fort to  those  who  die  and  to  those  who  are  left  behind. 

(45.)  Humanly  speaking,  there  is  something  good  in 
death,  namely,  that  it  puts  an  end  to  old  age.  That 
death  which  prevents  decrepitude  comes  more  seasonably 
than  that  which  ends  it. 

(46.)  Men  regret  their  life  has  been  ill-spent,  but  this 
does  not  always  induce  them  to  make  a  better  use  of 
the  time  they  have  yet  to  live. 

(47.)  Life  is  a  kind  of  sleep  ;  old  men  have  slept 
longer  than  others,  and  only  begin  to  wake  again  when 
they  are  to  die.  If,  then,  they  take  a  retrospect  of  the 
whole  course  of  their  lives,  they  frequently  discover 
neither  virtues  nor  commendable  actions  to  distinguish 
one  year  from  another ;  they  confound  one  time  of 
their  life  with  another  time,  and  see  nothing  of  suffi- 
cient note  by  which  to  measure  how  long  they  have  lived. 
They  have  dreamt  in  a  confused,  indistinct,  and  incohe- 
rent way  ;  but,  nevertheless,  they  are  aware,  as  all  people 
who  wake  up,  that  they  have  slept  for  a  long  while. 

(48.)  There  are  but  three  events  which  concern  man  : 
birth,  life,  and  death.  They  are  unconscious  of  their 
birth,  they  suffer  when  they  die,  and  they  neglect  to 
live. 

(49.)  There  is  a  time  preceding  the  power  of  reason- 
ing, when,  like  animals,  we  live  by  instinct  alone,  and  of 
which  memory  retains  no  vestiges.  There  is  a  second 
period,  when  reason  is  developed,  formed,  and  might 
act,  if  it  were  not  obscured  and  partly  extinguished 
by  vices  of  the  constitution,  and  a  sequence  of  pas- 
sions following  one  another  till  the  third  and  last  age ; 
reason  then,  being  in  its  full  strength,  should  produce 


292  OF    MANKIND. 

something  ;  but  it  is  chilled  and  impaired  by  years,  dis- 
ease, and  sorrow,  and  rendered  useless  by  the  machinery 
getting  old  and  out  of  gear ;  yet  these  three  periods 
constitute  the  whole  life  of  man. 

(50.)  Children  are  overbearing,  supercilious,  passion- 
ate, envious,  inquisitive,  egotistical,  idle,  fickle,  timid, 
intemperate,  liars,  and  dissemblers  ;  they  laugh  and 
weep  easily,  are  excessive  in  their  joys  and  sorrows,  and 
that  about  the  most  trifling  objects  ;  they  bear  no 
pain,  but  like  to  inflict  it  on  others  ;  already  they  are 
men. 

(51.)  Children  are  neither  for  the  past  nor  the  future, 
but  enjoy  the  present,  which  we  rarely  do. 

(52.)  There  seems  to  be  but  one  character  in  child- 
hood ;  at  that  age  morals  and  manners  are  nearly  all 
the  same,  and  it  is  only  by  paying  great  attention  that 
we  can  perceive  any  difference,  which,  however,  increases 
in  the  same  proportion  as  reason  does,  whilst  the  pas- 
sions and  vices  gather  strength  as  well ;  these  alone 
make  men  so  unlike  each  other  and  so  at  variance  with 
themselves. 

(53.)  Children  already  possess  those  faculties  which 
are  extinct  in  old  men,  namely,  imagination  and  memory, 
and  which  are  very  useful  to  them  in  their  little  sports 
and  amusements  ;  by  the  help  of  these  they  repeat  what 
they  have  heard,  imitate  what  they  see  done,  exercise 
all  trades,  either  in  busying  themselves  with  many  small 
labours  or  in  copying  the  movements  and  gestures  of 
various  workmen  ;  are  guests  at  a  sumptuous  feast  and 
entertained  most  luxuriously ;  are  transported  to  en- 
chanted palaces  and  places ;  have  splendid  carriages 
and  a  large  retinue,  though  they  are  by  themselves  ;  are 
at  the  head  of  armies,  give  battle,  and  enjoy  the  delights 


OF    MANKIND.  293 

of  obtaining  a  victory  ;  converse  with  kings  and  with  the 
greatest  princes  ;  are  themselves  monarchs,  have  sub- 
jects, possess  treasures  which  they  make  of  leaves  or 
sand ;  and  know  then,  what  they  will  ignore  in  after- 
life, to  be  satisfied  with  their  fortune  and  to  be  masters 
of  their  own  happiness. 

(54.)  There  are  no  outward  vices,  nor  bodily  defects, 
which  children  do  not  perceive ;  they  observe  them  at 
once,  and  know  how  to  describe  them  in  suitable  terms, 
for  more  exact  definitions  could  not  be  invented ;  but 
when  they  become  men,  they,  in  their  turn,  contract  the 
same  imperfections  which  they  ridiculed. 

The  only  anxiety  children  have  is  to  find  out  the  weak- 
nesses of  their  masters,  and  of  the  persons  they  have  to 
obey ;  as  soon  as  they  have  taken  once  advantage  of 
these,  they  get  the  upper  hand,  and  obtain  an  influence 
over  these  people  which  they  never  part  with  :  for  what 
once  deprived  these  persons  of  their  superiority  will 
always  prevent  them  recovering  it. 

(55.)  Idleness,  indolence,  and  laziness,  vices  so  natural 
to  children,  disappear  as  soon  as  they  begin  to  play  ;  they 
are  then  lively,  attentive,  exact  observers  of  rule  and  order, 
never  pardon  the  least  slip,  and  several  times  begin 
again  one  and  the  same  thing,  in  which  they  failed ; 
these  are  sure  forebodings  that  they  may,  hereafter, 
neglect  their  duties,  but  will  forget  nothing  that  can 
promote  their  pleasures. 

(56.)  To  children  everything  seems  great ;  court- 
yards, gardens,  houses,  furniture,  men,  and  animals ;  to 
men  the  things  of  the  world  appear  so,  and,  I  dare  say, 
for  the  same  reason,  because  they  are  little. 

(57.)  Children  begin  among  themselves  with  a  de- 
mocracy, where  every  one  is  master ;  and  what  is  very 


294  OF   MANKIND. 

natural,  it  does  not  suit  them  for  any  length  of  time,  and 
then  they  adopt  a  monarchy.  One  of  them  distinguishes 
himself  from  among  the  rest,  either  by  greater  vivacity, 
strength,  and  comeliness,  or  by  a  more  exact  knowledge 
of  their  various  sports  and  of  the  little  laws  which  re- 
gulate them  ;  all  the  others  submit  to  him,  and  then  an 
absolute  government  is  established,  but  only  in  matters 
of  pleasure. 

(58.)  Who  can  doubt  but  that  children  conceive, 
judge,  and  reason  consistently  ?  If  only  in  small  things 
consider  they  are  children,  and  without  much  experience  ; 
if  they  make  use  of  an  indifferent  phraseology  it  is  less 
their  fault  than  their  parents'  and  masters'. 

(59.)  It  destroys  all  confidence  in  the  minds  of  chil- 
dren, and  alienates  them  as  well,  to  punish  them  for 
faults  they  have  not  committed,  or  even  to  be  severe  with 
them  for  trifling  offences  ;  they  know  exactly,  and  better 
than  any  one,  what  they  deserve,  and  seldom  deserve 
more  than  they  dread ;  when  they  are  chastised,  they 
know  if  it  is  justly  or  unjustly,  whilst  unjust  punish- 
ments do  them  more  harm  than  not  to  be  punished 
at  all. 

(60.)  Man  does  not  live  long  enough  to  be  benefited 
by  his  faults  ;  he  is  committing  them  during  the  whole 
course  of  his  life,  and  it  is  as  much  as  he  can  do,  if, 
after  many  errors,  he  dies  at  last  improved. 

Nothing  revives  more  a  man  than  the  knowledge 
that  he  has  avoided  doing  some   foolish  action. 

(61.)  Men  are  loath  to  particularise  their  faults; 
they  conceal  them  or  blame  some  other  person  for  them, 
and  this  gives  the  "  spiritual  director "  ^  an  advantage 
over  the  father-confessor. 

1  See  page  68,  note  3. 


OF    MANKIND.  295 

(62.)  The  faults  of  blockheads  are  sometimes  so  great  ' 
and  so  difficult  to  foresee,  that  wise  men  are  puzzled  by 
them  ;  they  are  only  of  use  to  those  who  commit  them. 

(63.)  A  party  spirit  betrays  the  greatest  men  to  act  \ 
as  meanly  as  the  vulgar  herd. 

(64.)  Vanity  and  propriety  lead  us  to  act  in  the 
same  way  and  in  the  same  manner  as  we  should  do 
through  inclination  or  a  feeling  of  duty ;  a  man  died 
lately  in  Paris  of  a  fever  which  he  got  by  sitting  up  at 
night  with  his  wife,  for  whom  he  did  not  care.^ 

(65.)  All  men  in  their  hearts  covet  esteem,  but  are 
loath  any  one  should  discover  their  anxiety  to  be 
esteemed ;  for  men  wish  to  be  considered  virtuous ; 
and  men  would  no  longer  be  thought  virtuous,  but  fond 
of  esteem  and  praises,  and  vain,  were  they  to  derive 
any  other  advantages  from  virtue  than  virtue  itself. 
Men  are  very  vain,  and  of  all  things  hate  to  be 
thought  so. 

(66.)  A  vain  man  finds  it  to  his  advantage  to  speak 
well  or  ill  of  himself;  a  modest  man  never  talks  of 
himself. 

We  cannot  better  understand  how  ridiculous  vanity 
is,  and  what  a  disgraceful  vice  it  is,  than  by  observing 
how  careful  it  is  not  to  be  seen,  and  how  often  it  hides 
itself  underneath  a  semblance  of  modesty. 

False  modesty  is  the  highest  affectation  of  vanity  ;  it 
never  shows  a  vain  man  in  his  true  colours,  but,  on  the 
contrary,  enhances  his  reputation,  through  the  very 
virtue  which  is  the  opposite  of  the  vice  constituting  his 

1  This  refers  to  the  Prince  de  Conti  (1661-1685),  a  cousin  of  the  Duke 
de  Bourbon,  the  pupil  of  our  author.  When  the  Prince's  wife,  formerly 
Mademoiselle  de  Blois,  a  daughter  of  Louis  XIV.  and  Mademoiselle  de  la 
Valliere,  was  attacked  by  the  small-pox,  he  nursed  her  so  well  thai  she 
recovered,  but  he  died. 


296  OF    MANKIND. 

real  character ;  it  is  a  falsehood.  False  glorj'  is  the 
rock  on  which  vanity  splits  ;  it  induces  a  desire  in  men 
to  be  esteemed  for  things  they  indeed  possess,  but 
which  are  frivolous  and  unworthy  of  being  noticed  ;  it  is 
an  error. 

(67.)  Men  speak  of  themselves  in  such  a  manner,  that 
though  they  admit  they  are  guilty  of  some  trifling  faults, 
these  very  faults  imply  noble  talents  or  great  qualities. 
Thus  they  complain  of  a  bad  memory,  though  quite 
satisfied  with  the  large  amount  of  common  sense  and 
sound  judgment  they  possess ;  submit  to  being  re- 
proached for  absence  of  mind  and  musing,  imagining 
them  the  concomitants  of  intelligence ;  acknowledge 
being  awkward  and  not  able  to  do  anything  with  their 
hands,  and  comfort  themselves  for  being  without  these 
small  qualities  by  the  knowledge  of  possessing  those  of 
the  understanding  or  those  innate  feelings  which  every 
one  allows  them.  In  owning  their  indolence  they  always 
intimate  they  are  disinterested  and  entirely  cured  of 
ambition  ;  they  are  not  ashamed  of  being  slovenly, 
which  shows  they  merely  are  careless  of  little  things, 
and  seems  to  imply  that  they  solely  occupy  themselves 
with  solid  and  important  matters.  A  military  man 
affects  to  say  that  it  was  rashness  or  curiosity  which 
carried  him  into  the  trenches  on  a  certain  day,  or  in  a 
dangerous  spot,  without  being  on  duty  or  ordered  to  do 
so  ;  and  he  adds  that  the  general  reprimanded  him  for  it. 
Thus  a  man  possessing  brains  or  a  solid  genius  and 
an  innate  circumspection  which  other  men  endeavour  in 
vain  to  acquire ;  a  man  who  has  strengthened  his  mind 
by  a  long  experience  ;  to  whom  the  number,  weight, 
variety,  difficulty,  and  importance  of  affairs  merely  pro- 
cure some  occupation  without  embarrassing  him ;  who. 


OF   MANKIND.  297 

by  his  extensive  knowledge  and  penetration  masters  all 
events ;  who  does  not  consult  all  the  remarks  ever 
written  on  the  art  of  governments  and  politics,  but  is, 
perhaps,  one  of  those  sublime  minds  created  to  sway 
others,  and  from  whose  example  those  rules  were  first 
made ;  who  is  diverted,  by  the  great  things  he  does, 
from  those  pleasant  and  agreeable  things  he  might 
read,  and  who,  on  the  contrary,  loses  nothing  by  re- 
capitulating and  turning  over,  as  it  were,  his  own  life 
and  actions  :  a  man,  so  constituted,  may  easily,  and 
without  compromising  himself,  admit  that  he  knows 
nothing  of  books  and  never  reads.  ^ 

(68.)  Men  intend  sometimes  to  conceal  their  imper- 
fections, or  attenuate  the  opinion  of  others  about  them, 
by  frankly  acknowledging  them.  "  I  am  very  ignorant," 
says  some  man  who  knows  nothing ;  "  I  am  getting 
old,"  says  a  second  above  threescore  ;  "  I  am  far  from 
rich,"  says  a  third  who  is  wretchedly  poor. 

(69.)  There  is  either  no  such  thing  as  modesty,  or  it 
is  mistaken  for  something  quite  different,  if  we  think  it 
to  be  an  inward  sentiment,  debasing  man  in  his  own 
eyes,  and  which  is  a  supernatural  virtue  we  call  humi- 
lity. Man  naturally  thinks  of  himself  with  pride  and 
conceit,  and  thinks  thus  of  no  one  but  himself;  modesty 
only  aims  at  modifying  this  disposition  so  that  no  one 
shall  suffer  by  it ;  it  is  an  external  virtue,  which  com- 
mands our  looks,  gait,  words,  tone  of  voice,  and  obliges 
a  man  ostensibly  to  act  with  others  as  if  in  reality  he 
did  not  despise  them. 

(70.)  There  are  many  people  in  this  world  who  in- 
wardly and  habitually  draw  a  comparison  between  them- 

1  According  to  the  "  Keys,"  this  paragraph  alludes  to   Louvois.     See 
page  133,  note,  and  page  243,  note  3. 


298  OF   MANKIND. 

selves  and  others,  always  give  a  decision  in  favour  of 
Iheir  own  merits,  and  behave  accordingly. 

(7  I.)  You  say,  "  Men  must  be  modest ;"  that  is  what 
all  intelligent  men  desire ;  but  then  people  tyrannise 
over  those  who  yield  through  modesty,  and  should  not 
crush  them  when  they  give  way. 

Again  some  say,  "  People  should  be  quiet  in  their 
dress  ; "  intelligent  men  do  not  wish  for  anything  else  ; 
but  the  world  requires  ornaments,  and  we  comply  with 
its  demands  ;  it  runs  eagerly  after  superfluities,  and  we 
display  them.  Some  people  value  others  only  for  the  fine 
linen  or  the  rich  silks  they  wear,  and  we  do  not  always 
refuse  to  purchase  esteem,  even  on  those  terms.  There 
are  some  places  where  every  person  shows  himself,  and 
where  you  will  be  admitted  or  refused  admittance  accord- 
ing as  your  gold  lace  is  broader  or  narrower. 

(72.)  Vanity,  and  the  high  value  we  set  upon  our- 
selves, makes  us  imagine  that  others  treat  us  very 
haughtily,  which  is  sometimes  true  and  often  false ;  a 
modest  man  is  not  so  susceptible. 

(73-)  We  ought  not  to  be  so  vain  and  imagine  that 
others  are  anxious  to  have  a  look  at  us,  and  to  esteem 
us,  and  that  our  talents  and  merits  are  the  topics  of  their 
conversations,  but  we  should  have  so  much  confidence 
in  ourselves  as  not  to  fancy  when  people  whisper  that 
they  speak  ill  of  us,  or  laugh  only  to  make  fun  of  us. 

(74.)  What  is  the  reason  that  to-day  Alcippus  bows 
to  me,  smiles  and  almost  throws  himself  out  of  his 
coach  to  take  notice  of  me.  I  am  not  rich,  and  on  foot; 
therefore,  according  to  the  present  fashion,  he  ought  not 
to  have  seen  me.  Is  it  not  because  a  person  of  the 
highest  rank  is  with  him  in  his  carriage  ? 

(75.)   Men  are  so  full  of  themselves,  that  everything 


OF   MANKIND.  299 

they  do  is  connected  with  self ;  they  like  to  be  seen,  to 
be  shown  about,  even  by  those  who  do  not  know  them, 
and  who,  if  they  omit  this,  are  said  to  be  proud,  for 
they  should  gfuess  who  and  what  those  men  are. 

(76.)  We  never  look  for  happiness  within  ourselves, 
but  in  the  opinions  of  men  we  know  to  be  flatterers, 
insincere,  unjust,  envious,  whimsical  and  prejudiced. 
How  eccentric  ! 

(77.)  We  might  think  that  people  laugh  only  at  some- 
thing really  ridiculous  ;  yet  there  are  certain  people  who 
laugh  just  as  much  at  what  is  not  so  as  at  what  is.  If 
you  are  foolish  and  thoughtless,  and  some  unbecoming 
expression  escapes  you,  they  laugh  at  you ;  if  you  are 
wise,  and  say  nothing  but  what  is  sensible,  and  as  it 
should  be  said,  they  laugh  at  you  all  the  same. 

(78.)  Those  who,  by  violence  or  injustice,  steal  our 
property,  or  rob  us  of  our  honour  by  slander,  show 
effectually  that  they  hate  us  ;  but  this  is  not  an  undoubted 
proof  that  they  no  longer  esteem  us  ;  therefore,  it  is 
not  impossible  that  we  may  forgive  them,  and,  one  day 
or  other,  again  become  their  friends.  Ridicule,  on  the 
contrary,  is  of  all  wrongs  the  least  to  be  excused,  for  it 
is  the  language  of  contempt,  and  one  of  the  ways  in 
which  it  is  most  plainly  expressed ;  it  attacks  a  man  in 
his  last  intrenchment,  namely,  the  good  opinion  he  has 
of  himself ;  it  aims  at  making  him  ridiculous  in  his  own 
eyes  ;  and  thus  convinces  him  that  the  person  who 
ridicules  him  is  very  badly  disposed  towards  him,  so  that 
he  resolves  never  to  be  reconciled  to  him. 

It  is  monstrous  to  consider  how  easy  it  is  for  us  to 
ridicule,  censure,  and  despise  others,  and  how  we  enjoy 
it ;  and  yet  how  enraged  we  are  when  others  ridicule, 
censure,  and  despise  us. 


300  ^  OF    MANKIND. 

(79.)  Health  and  wealth  prevent  men  from  experienc- 
ing misfortunes,  and  thus  make  them  callous  to  their 
suffering  fellow-creatures  ;  whilst  they  who  already  are 
burdened  by  their  own  miseries  feel  most  tenderly  those 
of  others. 

(80.)  In  well-constituted  minds,^  festivals,  spectacles, 
and  music  bring  more  vividly  before  us,  and  make  us 
feel  the  more  the  misfortunes  of  our  relatives  or  friends. 

{81.)  A  great  mind  is  above  insults,  injustice,  grief, 
and  raillery,  and  would  be  invulnerable  were  it  not 
open  to  compassion. 

(82.)  We  feel  somewhat  ashamed  of  being  happy  at 
the  sight  of  certain  miseries. 

(83.)  Men  have  a  very  quick  perception  of  their 
smallest  advantages  and  are  as  backward  in  discover- 
ing their  faults.  They  never  ignore  they  have  fine  eye- 
brows and  well-shaped  nails,  but  scarcely  know  they  have 
lost  an  eye,  and  not  at  all  when  they  are  wanting  in  under- 
standing. 

Argyra  pulls  off  her  glove  to  show  her  fine  hand,  and 
does  not  forget  to  let  us  have  a  peep  of  her  little  shoe, 
which  makes  us  think  she  has  a  small  foot ;  she  laughs 
at  serious  as  well  as  at  funny  observations  to  show  her 
fine  teeth ;  if  she  does  not  hide  her  ears  it  is  because 
they  are  well  shaped  ;  and  if  she  does  not  dance,  it  is 
because  she  is  not  too  well  satisfied  with  her  waist, 
which  is  not  very  slender.  She  knows  perfectly  well 
what  she  is  about,  with  the  exception  of  one  thing :  she 
is  always  talking,  and  has  not  one  grain  of  sense. 

1  The  original  has  "  aux  ames  bien  nees,"  a  very  favourite  expression  of 
the  French  authors  of  the  seventeenth  century  ;  thus  P.  Corneille,  amongst 
Others,  says  in  the  Cid: 

"  Pour  des  ames  bien  nees, 
La  valeur  n'attend  point  le  nombre  des  annees." 


OF    MANKIND,  30I 

(84.)  Men  do  not  value  very  highly  the  affections  of 
the  heart,  but  idolise  the  gifts  of  body  and  mind.  A 
person  who,  in  speaking  of  himself,  would  coolly  say 
that  he  is  good,  constant,  faithful,  sincere,  just,  and 
grateful,  does  not  imagine  he  offends  against  modesty  ; 
but  he  would  not  venture  to  say  that  he  is  sprightly,  or 
that  he  has  fine  teeth  or  a  soft  skin  ;  that  would  be 
rather  too  much  of  a  good  thing. 

It  cannot  be  denied  that  men  admire  two  virtues, 
courage  and  liberality,  because  they  highly  value  two 
things  which  these  virtues  cause  us  to  neglect,  namely, 
life  and  money  ;  yet  no  one  boasts  that  he  is  courageous 
or  liberal. 

No  one  in  speaking  of  himself  will  say,  especially 
without  any  foundation,  that  he  is  handsome,  generous, 
eminent,  for  men  value  those  qualities  too  highly,  and 
so  they  are  satisfied  with  thinking  they  possess  them. 

(85.)  Whatever  similarity  is  apparent  between  jeal- 
ousy and  emulation,  they  differ  as  much  as  vice  and 
virtue. 

Jealousy  and  emulation  have  the  same  object,  which 
is  the  prosperity  or  merit  of  another,  but  with  this 
difference,  that  the  latter  is  a  voluntary  sentiment,  as 
courageous  as  sincere,  which  fertilises  the  mind  and  in- 
duces it  to  take  advantage  of  great  examples,  so  that 
it  not  seldom  excels  what  it  admires  ;  whilst  the  first,  on 
the  contrary,  is  violent  in  its  action,  and,  as  it  were, 
a  forced  acknowledgment  of  a  merit  it  does  not  possess ; 
it  goes  so  far  as  even  to  deny  merit  whenever  it  exists  ; 
or,  if  it  is  compelled  to  admit  its  existence,  refuses  to 
commend  it,  and  envies  the  reward  it  receives.  Jealousy 
is  a  barren  passion,  which  leaves  a  man  in  the  same 
state  it  finds  him,   fills  him  with  high  ideas  of  himself 


302  OF   MANKIND. 

and  of  his  reputation ;  causes  him  to  become  callous 
and  insensible  to  the  actions  and  labours  of  others  ;  and 
inspires  him  with  astonishment  on  perceiving  in  this 
world  other  talents  than  his  own,  or  other  men  with  the 
same  talents  on  which  he  prides  himself;  this  disgrace- 
ful vice,  which  by  its  very  excess  always  turns  to  vanity 
and  presumption,  does  not  so  much  persuade  the  person 
infected  with  it  that  he  has  more  intelligence  and  merit 
than  others,  as  that  he  alone  is  intelligent  and  praise- 
worthy. 

Emulation  and  jealousy  are  always  found  in  persons 
practising  the  same  art,  possessing  the  same  talents, 
and  filling  the  same  positions.  The  meanest  artisans 
are  most  subject  to  jealousy  ;  those  persons  who  follow 
the  liberal  arts  or  literature,  as  artists,  musicians,  orators, 
poets,  and  all  who  pretend  to  write,  ought  not  to  be 
capable  of  anything  but  emulation. 

Jealousy  is  never  free  from  some  sort  of  envy  ;  and 
these  two  passions  are  often  taken  for  one  another. 
But  this  is  wrong :  envy  may  sometimes  exist  without 
jealousy,  as,  for  example,  when  a  position  very  superior 
to  our  own,  a  large  fortune,  royal  favour,  or  a  secretary- 
ship of  state  have  caused  it. 

Envy  and  hatred  are  always  united,  and  fortify  each 
other  in  one  and  the  same  person  ;  they  can  only  be 
distinguished  fiom  one  another  in  this,  that  the  latter 
aims  at  the  individual,  the  former  at  his  position  and 
condition  in  life. 

An  intelligent  man  is  not  jealous  of  a  cutler  who  has 
made  a  first-rate  sword,  nor  of  a  sculptor  who  has  just 
finished  a   fine  piece   of  statuary  ;  he  knows  there  are 
rules  and  methods  in  those  arts  beyond  his  ken  ;  that  ■ 
tools  have  to  be  handled  with  which  he  is  unacquainted, 


OF    MANKIND.  303 

and  of  whose  very  names  and  shapes  he  is  ignorant  ;  it 
is  sufficient  for  him  to  be  aware  that  he  has  never  served 
an  apprenticeship  to  such  a  trade,  and  he  consoles  him- 
self, therefore,  that  he  has  not  mastered  them.  But  he 
may,  on  the  contrary,  envy,  and  even  be  jealous  of  a 
minister  of  state,  and  of  those  who  govern  ;  as  if  reason 
and  common  sense,  of  which  he  has  a  share  as  well  as 
they  have,  are  the  only  things  required  for  ruling  a 
nation  and  for  the  administration  of  public  affairs,  and 
as  if  they  could  take  the  place  of  regulations,  directions, 
and  experience. 

(86.)  We  meet  with  few  utterly  dull  and  stupid  men, 
but  with  fewer  sublime  and  transcendental  ones.  The 
generality  of  mankind  hovers  between  these  two  ex- 
tremes ;  the  gap  is  filled  by  a  great  number  of  men 
of  ordinary  talents,  but  who  are  very  useful  and  service- 
able to  the  State,  and  efificient  as  well  as  agreeable  ; 
as,  for  example,  in  commerce,  finances,  during  war,  in 
navigation,  arts,  trades,  in  the  possession  of  a  good 
memory,  in  gambhng,!  in  society,  and  in  conversation. 

(87.)  All  the  intelligence  of  the  world  is  useless  to  a 
man  who  has  none,  for  having  no  ideas  himself,  he  can- 
not be  improved  by  those  of  others. 

(88.)  To  feel  the  want  of  reasoning  faculties  is  the 
next  thing  to  possessing  them  ;  a  madman  cannot  have 
this  sensation.  Thus  the  next  best  thing  to  intelligence 
is  the  consciousness  that  we  have  none,  for  then  we 
might  do  what  is  considered  impossible,  and,  without 
intelligence,  neither  be  a  fool  nor  a  fop  nor  impertinent. 

1  Gambling  was  highly  valued  at  court  (see  page  154,  §  71 ) ;  the  Mar- 
quis de  Dangeau  (see  page  156,  note  2)  owed  partly  his  position  to  his  suc- 
cesses at  the  gambling-table  ;  and  the  mathematician  Sauveur,  a  member 
of  the  Academy  of  Sciences,  used  to  give  scientific  demonstrations  before  the 
king  and  the  court  of  the  various  combinations  of  the  fashionable  games. 


304  OF    MANKIND. 

(89.)  A  man  who  has  not  a  large  amount  of  intelligence 
is  grave  and  all  of  a  piece  ;  he  does  not  laugh,  he  never 
jokes  nor  trifles  ;  and  is  as  incapable  of  rising  to  great 
things  as  of  suiting  himself,  by  way  of  change,  to  small 
ones  ;  he  hardly  knows  how  to  play  with  his  children. 

(90.)  Everybody  says  of  a  coxcomb  that  he  is  a  cox- 
comb, but  no  one  dares  to  tell  him  so  ;  he  dies  without 
knowing  it  and  without  anybody  being  avenged  on  him. 

(91.)  What  a  dissonance  is  there  between  the  mind 
and  the  heart !  Some  philosophers  lead  bad  lives 
though  they  have  large  stores  of  "  wise  saws  ; "  and  some 
politicians,  full  of  schemes  and  ideas,  cannot  govern 
themselves. 

(92.)  The  mind  wears  out  like  other  things  ;  sciences 
are  its  aliment  ;  they  nourish  it  and  wear  it  out. 

(93.)  Men  of  inferior  rank  are  sometimes  burdened 
with  a  thousand  useless  virtues,  but  they  have  no  oppor- 
tunities of  making  use  of  them. 

(94.)  We  meet  with  some  men  who  bear  with  ease 
the  weight  of  the  royal  favour  and  of  power,  who  get 
accustomed  to  their  grandeur,  and  remain  steady  though 
they  occupy  the  highest  posts.  On  the  contrary,  those 
men  whom  fortune,  without  any  choice  or  discrimina- 
tion, has  almost  blindly  overwhelmed  with  its  blessings, 
behave  insolently  and  extravagantly  ;  their  looks,  their 
carriage,  their  tone  of  voice,  and  their  manner  of  receiv- 
ing people,  show  for  some  time  the  admiration  they  have 
for  themselves,  as  well  as  for  beholding  themselves  on 
such  an  eminence  ;  they  become  at  last  so  restless  that 
their  downfall  alone  can  tame  them. 

(95.)  A  stout  and  robust  fellow,  who  has  a  wide  chest 
and  a  broad  pair  of  shoulders,  carries  heavy  burdens 
quickly  and  gracefully,  and  has  still  one  hand  at  liberty. 


OF    MANKIND.  305 

while  a  dwarf  would  be  crushed  by  half  his  load.  Thus 
eminent  stations  make  great  men  yet  more  great,  and 
little  ones  less. 

(96.)  Some  men  gain  by  being  eccentric  ;  they  scud 
along  in  full  sail  in  a  sea  where  others  are  lost  and 
dashed  to  pieces  ■;  they  are  successful  by  the  very  means 
which  would  seem  to  prevent  all  success  ;  they  reap 
from  their  irregularity  and  folly  all  the  advantages  of 
consummate  wisdom ;  they  are  men  who  devote  them- 
selves to  other  men,  to  high-born  nobles,  for  whom  they 
have  sacrificed  everything,  and  in  whom  they  have 
placed  their  last  hope  ;  they  do  not  serve,  but  amuse 
them.  Obsequious  men  of  merit  are  useful  to  the 
great ;  they  are  necessary  to  them,  and  grow  old  whilst 
retailing  their  witticisms,  for  which  they  expect  to  be 
rewarded  as  if  they  had  done  some  noble  deeds ;  by 
dint  of  being  funny  they  obtain  posts  of  great  import- 
ance, and  rise  to  the  highest  dignities  by  continually 
buffooning,  until  finally  and  unexpectedly  they  find 
themselves  in  a  position  they  neither  dreaded  nor  anti- 
cipated. Nothing  remains  of  them  in  this  world  but  an 
example  of  their  success,  which  it  would  be  dangerous 
to  imitate.^ 

(97.)  People  might  expect  that  certain  persons  who 
once  performed  some  noble  and  heroic  actions  known  to 
the  entire  world,  would  not  be  exhausted  by  so  arduous 
an  effort,  and  should  at  least  be  as  rational  and  judicious 
in  their  behaviour   as  men   commonly   are ;    that   they 

J  The  Marshal  de  la  Feuillade  is  supposed  to  be  meant.  Besides  the 
monument  he  erected  to  Louis  XIV.  (see  page  227,  note  2),  there  are  many 
other  proofs  of  his  eccentricity,  as,  for  example,  his  going  with  two  hundred 
volunteers  to  wrest  Candia  from  the  Turks,  and  his  voyage  to  Spain  to 
challenge  a  certain  M.  de  Saint-Aunay,  who  was  accused  of  having  calum- 
niated Louis  XIV. 

U 


306  OF    MANKIND. 

should  be  above  any  meanness  unworthy  of  the  great 
reputation  they  have  acquired ;  and  that  by  mixing  less 
with  the  people  they  should  not  give  them  an  oppor- 
tunity of  viewing  them  too  closely,  so  that  curiosity  and 
admiration  might  not  change  to  indifference,  and  perhaps 
to  contempt.^ 

(98.)  It  is  easier  for  some  men  to  enrich  themselves 
with  a  thousand  virtues  than  to  correct  a  single  vice  ;  it 
is  unfortunate  for  them  that  this  vice  is  often  the  least 
suitable  to  their  condition  in  life,  and  renders  them  highly 
ridiculous  ;  it  weakens  their  splendid  and  grand  qualities, 
and  prevents  them  from  becoming  perfect  and  keep- 
ing their  reputation  stainless.  We  do  not  require  these 
men  to  be  more  enlightened  and  incorruptible,  more  fond 
of  order  and  discipline,  more  assiduous  in  doing  their 
duties,  more  zealous  for  the  public  good,  or  more  solemn 
in  their  deportment ;  we  could  only  desire  them  to  be 
less  amorous.2 

(99.)  Some  men  in  the  course  of  their  lives  alter  so 
much  in  feeling  and  intelligence,  that  we  are  sure  to 
make  a  mistake  if  we  judge  merely  of  them  by  what 
they  appeared  in  their  early  youth.  Some  were  pious, 
wise,  and  learned,  who  have  been  spoiled  by  the  favours 
fortune  bestowed  on  them,  and  are  so  no  longer  ;  ^  others 

1  The  commentators  speak  of  a  certain  captain  of  the  guard,  Boisselot, 
and  of  an  Irish  officer,  Macarthy,  one  of  the  generals  of  James  II.  ;  but 
there  would  have  been  nothing  astonishing  in  their  "  mixing  with  the 
people."  It  may  be  that  this  paragraph  points  at  the  Duke  of  Orleans,  a 
brother  of  Louis  XIV.,  who  had  shown  some  valour  at  the  battle  of  Cassel 
in  1677,  but  who  was  never  more  employed,  and  was  not  very  "judi- 
cious." 

2  All  the  "  Keys  "  say  the  Archbishop  of  Paris,  M.  de  Harlay,  was  meant. 
See  also  page  238,  note  4. 

3  The  Cardinal  de  Bouillon  (1644-1715)  is  supposed  to  be  meant  by  this 
■     remark  ;  he  was,  however,  according  to  Saint-Simon,  always  very  dissolute 

in  his  manners.     See  page  210,  note  i. 


OF    MANKIND.  307 

began  their  lives  amidst  pleasures,  and  devoted  all  their 
intelligence  in  their  pursuit,  but,  being  no  longer  in 
favour,  they  now  are  religious,  wise,  and  temperate.^ 
These  latter  commonly  become  great  men,  who  may  be 
relied  upon  ;  their  honesty  has  been  tried  by  patience 
and  adversity ;  they,  moreover,  show  great  politeness, 
which  they  owe  to  the  society  of  ladies,  and  display 
in  every  circumstance,  as  well  as  a  spirit  of  order, 
thoughtfulness,  and  sometimes  lofty  capacities,  acquired 
by  study  and  the  leisure  of  a  shattered  fortune. 

All  men's  misfortunes  proceed  from  their  aversion  to 
being  alone  ;  hence  gambling,  extravagance,  dissipation, 
wine,  women,  ignorance,  slander,  envy,  and  forgetful- 
ness  of  what  we  owe  to  God  and  ourselves. 

(100.)  Men  are  sometimes  unbearable  to  themselves  ; 
darkness  and  solitude  unsettle  them,  and  throw  them 
into  a  state  of  imaginary  dread  and  groundless  terror ; 
at  such  a  time  the  least  harm  that  can  befall  them  is  a 
lassitude  of  everything. 

(10 1.)   Idleness   is    the    mother    of  listlessness,  and 
chiefly  induces  men  to  hunt  after  diversions,  gambling, 
and  company.      He  who   loves   work  requires   nothing    \/^ 
else. 

(102.)  Most  men  employ  the  first  years  of  their  life 
in  making  .the  last  miserable. 

(103.)  There  are  some  works  which  begin  with  the 
first  letter  of  the  alphabet  and  end  with  the  last  ;  good, 
bad,  and  indifferent  things  are  all  inserted  ;  nothing  of 
a  certain  nature  is  forgotten ;  and  these,  though  made 
up  of  far-fetched  jokes  and  affectations,  are  called  "  sports 


1  Some  "  Keys  "  name  here  wrongly  Boutillier  de  Ranc^,  the  founder  of 
the  Trappists,  whilst  others  speak  of  Le  Camus,  bishop  of  Grenoble  (see 
P<<ge  47,  note  4).     La  Bruyere's  allusion  is  far  more  general. 


3o8  OF    MANKIND. 

of  wit."  ^  The  same  kind  of  sport  also  rules  our  con- 
duct ;  a  certain  matter  once  commenced  must  be  finished, 
and  we  have  to  go  on  till  the  end.  It  would  have  been 
much  better  to  alter  our  plan  or  entirely  to  drop  it ;  but 
it  is  far  more  odd  and  difficult  to  proceed  with  it,  and 
therefore  we  go  on,  and  are  stimulated  by  contradiction  ; 
vanity  encourages  us,  and  takes  the  place  of  reason, 
which  abandons  and  leaves  us.  Such  eccentricity  is 
even  carried  on  in  the  most  virtuous  actions,  and  often 
in  some  of  a  religious  nature. 

(104.)  To  do  our  duty  is  an  effort  to  us,  because 
when  we  do  it  we  only  perform  our  obligations,  and 
seldom  receive  those  eulogies  which  are  the  greatest 
incentive  to  commendable  actions,  and  support  us  in 
our  enterprises.  N  ,  .  .  loves  to  make  a  display  of 
his  charity,  so  he  is  appointed  a  superintendent  of  a 
charity-board,  and  a  steward  to  its  revenues,  whilst  his 
house  becomes  a  public  office  for  the  distribution  of 
them ;  ^  his  doors  are  open  to  all  clergymen  or  to 
Sisters  of  Charity  ;  ^  and  every  one  sees  and  talks  about 


1  All  the  "  Keys  "  say  this  refers  to  the  Diciionnaire  de  l' Academie,  but 
its  first  edition  only  appeared  in  1694,  and  this  paragraph  was  published  four 
years  before.  See  page  9,  note  2.  It  alludes  probably  to  those  encyclopedias 
called  Traites  sur  toutes  les  sciences,  ires  abreges  a  Vusnge  de  la  noblesse, 
or  to  some  collection  of  anecdotes,  a  kind  of  omnium  gathennn,  entitled 
Bibliotheqjie  des  gens  de  cour  ;  perhaps  it  might  also  apply  to  some  verses 
then  ill  vogue,  and  called  vers  nbecedaires,  of  which  the  first  line  begaa 
with  an  "  a,"  the  second  with  a  "  b,"  and  so  on.  Those  "  sports  of  wit," 
which  our  author  calls  by  the  name  oi  jeux  d'esp-tiU  witticisms,  also 
existed  later  in  England,  e.g.,  "The  Foundling  HospitalforWit." 

2  Several  persons  have  been  named  whose  duty  it  was  to  distribute 
charity  to  the  poor,  but  it  has  been  rightly  observed  that  the  person  alluded 
to  in  this  paragraph  "  makes  a  display  of  it,"  and  therefore  it  cannot  have 
been  his  duty. 

3  In  French,  sceurs  grises,  grey  sisters,  because  the  Sisters'of  Charity 
wore  grey  dresses.  Bands  were  then  worn  by  every  one,  but  clergymen's 
bands  were  plain  and  called /«///.;  collets,  the  name  our  author  gives  them. 


OF    MANKIND.  3O9 

his  liberality  in  relieving  the  poor.  Who  would  dare  to 
imagine  N  .  .  .  was  not  an  honest  man,  unless  it  were 
his  creditors  ? 

(105.)  G^ronte  dies  of  mere  decrepitude,  and  without 
having  made  the  will  he  intended  to  make  for  those  last 
thirty  years ;  as  he  died  intestate,  about  half  a  score 
of  relatives  share  his  estate  among  them.  For  a  long 
time  he  was  only  kept  alive  through  the  care  taken  of 
him  by  his  wife,  Asteria,  who,  though  young,  always 
attended  on  him,  never  let  him  go  out  of  her  sight, 
nursed  him  in  his  old  age,  and  at  last  closed  his 
eyes.  He  has  not  left  her  money  enough  to  rid  her 
of  the  necessity  of  taking  another  old  man  for  a 
husband. 

(106.)  When  people  are  loth  to  sell  or  give  up  their 
posts  and  offices,  even  when  in  extreme  old  age,  it  is  a 
token  they  are  possessed  of  the  notion  that  they  are 
immortal ;  or  if  they  think  they  may  die,  it  is  a  sign 
they  love  nobody  but  themselves. ^ 

(107.)  Faustus  is  a  rake,  a  prodigal,  a  free-thinker,  as 
well  as  ungrateful  and  passionate  ;  yet  his  uncle  Aurelius 
neither  hates  him  nor  disinherits  him. 

Frontin,  his  other  nephew,  after  twenty  years  of  ac- 
knowledged honesty  and  of  blind  complacency  for  the 
old  man,  never  gained  his  favour  ;  and  the  only  legacy 
left  to  him  is  a  small  pension,  which  Faustus,  the  sole 
heir,  has  to  pay  him. 


1  Holders  of  certain  legal  or  financial  offices  had  the  right  of  reversion  or 
next  nomination  whilst  they  were  alive,  and  not  seldom  delayed  exercising 
ii  until  they  were  very  old  ;  but  unless  they  did  so  within  forty  days  of  their 
death,  and  had  paid  an  annual  tax  called  U  droit  de paulette,  so  called 
afier  Charles  Paulet,  a  minister  of  Henri  IV.  who  established  it  in  1604, 
and  which  tax  varied  from  a  sixtieth  to  a  fourth  of  the  value  of  the  office, 
the  king  had  a  right  to  make  fresh  appointments.    See  also  page  192,  note  i. 


3IO  OF   MANKIND. 

(io8.)  Hatred  is  so  lasting  and  stubborn,  that  recon- 
ciliation on  a  sick-bed  certainly  forebodes  death. 

(109.)  We  insinuate  ourselves  into  the  favour  of 
others,  either  by  flattering  those  passions  which  animate 
them,  or  by  pitying  the  infirmities  which  afflict  their 
bodies  ;  and  this  is  the  only  way  by  which  we  can  show 
our  regard  for  them ;  hence  the  healthy  and  those  who 
do  not  desire  anything,  are  less  easy  to  be  swayed. 

(iio.)  Want  of  vigour  and  voluptuousness  are  innate 
in  man  and  cease  with  him,  and  fortunate  or  unfortunate 
circumstances  never  make  him  abandon  them  ;  they  are 
the  fruits  of  prosperity  or  become  a  solace  in  adversity. 

(ill.)  The  most  unnatural  sight  in  the  world  is  an 
old  man  in  love. 

(112.)  Few  men  remember  that  they  have  been  young, 
and  how  hard  it  was  then  to  live  chaste  and  temperate. 

The  first  thing  men  do  when  they  have  renounced 
pleasure,  through  decency,  lassitude,  or  for  the  sake  of 
health,  is  to  condemn  it  in  others.  Such  conduct  denotes 
a  kind  of  latent  affection  for  the  very  things  they  left  off; 
they  would  like  no  one  to  enjoy  a  pleasure  they  can  no 
longer  indulge  in  ;  and  thus  they  show  their  feelings  of 
jealousy. 

(113.)  It  is  not  the  dread  of  one  day  wanting  money 
which  renders  old  men  avaricious,  for  some  of  them 
have  such  a  large  quantity  of  it  that  this  cannot  make 
them  unensy  ;  besides,  how  can  the  fear  disturb  them 
of  being  in  want  of  the  common  necessities  of  life  when 
they  are  old,  since  by  their  own  free  will  they  deprive 
themselves  of  these  to  satisfy  their  avarice.  Neither  do 
they  wish  to  leave  great  riches  to  their  children,  for 
they  naturally  love  nobody  better  than  themselves ; 
moreover,  there  are  many  misers  who  have  no  heirs. 


OF    MANKIND.  31I 

Avarice  seems  rather  an  effect  of  age  and  of  the  dis- 
position of  old  men,  who  as  naturally  give  themselves  up 
to  it  as  they  did  to  pleasure  in  their  youth,  or  to  am- 
bition in  their  manhood.  Neither  vigour,  youth,  nor 
health  are  needed  to  become  a  miser ;  nor  is  there  any 
necessity  for  people  hurr)'ing  themselves,  nor  for  those 
who  hoard  being  in  the  slightest  degree  active  ;  a  man 
has  nothing  to  do  but  let  the  money  lie  in  his  coffers, 
and  deny  himself  everything  ;  this  is  not  very  difficult  for 
old  people,  who  must  have  some  passion  or  other  because 
they  are  men.^ 

(i  14.)  There  are  some  people  who  dwell  in  wretched 
houses,  have  hardly  any  beds,  are  badly  clad  and  worse 
fed ;  who  are  exposed  to  all  the  severity  of  the  seasons, 
deprive  themselves  of  the  society  of  their  fellow-crea- 
tures, and  live  in  continual  solitude ;  who  grieve  for  the 
present,  the  past,  and  the  future ;  whose  lives  are  a 
perpetual  penance,  and  who  have  thus  discovered  the 
secret  of  going  to  perdition  by  the  most  troublesome 
way  :   I  mean  misers. 

(115.)  The  remembrance  of  their  youth  remains 
green  in  the  heart  of  old  men  ;  they  love  the  places 
where  they  lived  ;  and  the  persons  with  whom  they  then 
began  an  acquaintance  are  dear  to  them ;  they  still 
affect  certain  words  in  use  when  they  first  began  to  speak; 
tliey  prefer  the  ancient  style  of  singing  and  dancing  ; 
and  boast  of  the  old  fashions  in  dress,  furnishing,  and 
carriages  ;  they  cannot  bring  themselves  to  disapprove 
of  those  things  which  served  their  passions,  and  are 
always  recalling  them.      Can  any  one  imagine  these  old 

1  Jean  Fran5ois,  Marquis  d'Hautefort,  who  wa%  it  is  said,  the  original  of 
Harpagon  in  Moliere's  Avare,  seems  to  be  partly  portrayed  in  this  para- 
graph. 


312  OF   MANKIND. 

men  would  prefer  new  customs  and  the  latest  fashions, 
which  they  do  not  adopt,  and  from  which  they  have 
nothing  to  expect,  which  young  men  have  invented,  and 
which  give  them,  in  their  turn,  such  a  great  advantage 
over  their  elders  ? 

(ii6,)  An  old  man  who  is  careless  in  his  dress,  or 
else  overdressed,  increases  his  wrinkles,  and  looks  as 
senile  as  he  really  is. 

(117.)  An  old  man  is  proud,  disdainful,  and  unso- 
ciable if  he  is  not  very  intelligent. 

(118.)  A  courtier  of  a  ripe  old  age,  who  is  a  sensible 
man  and  has  a  good  memory,  is  an  inestimable  treasure  ; 
he  is  full  of  anecdotes  and  maxims  ;  he  knows  a  good 
many  curious  circumstances  of  the  history  of  the  age, 
which  are  never  met  with  in  books  ;  and  from  him  we 
may  learn  such  rules  for  our  conduct  and  manners  which 
can  be  depended  upon,  because  they  are  based  on  expe- 
rience.^ 

(119.)  Young  men  can  bear  solitude  better  than  old 
people,  because  their  passions  occupy  their  thoughts. 

(120.)  Though  Philip  2  is  rather  old,  he  is  over-natty 
and  effeminate,  and  only  cares  for  little  dainties  ;  he 
has  studied  the  art  of  eating,  drinking,  sleeping,  and 
taking  exercise,  and  scrupulously  observes  the  smallest 
rules  he  has  prescribed  for  himself,  which  all  tend  to 
his  comfort ;  even  a  mistress,  if  his  system  allowed  him 

1  Some  of  the  commentators  pretend  that  the  "  courtier  of  a  ripe  old  age  " 
was  the  Marshal  Nicolas  de  Villeroy,  the  former  governor  of  Louis  XIV., 
who  died  in  1685,  and  whose  son,  the  Duke,  is  mentioned  on  page  54, 
note  3,  and  on  page  204,  note  i. 

2  It  is  said  that  by  Philip  our  author  intended  to  portray  the  Marquis  de 
Sable,  a  >on  of  the  finance  minister  Servien,  who  was  the  proprietor  of 
Meudon,  sold  it  to  Louvois  (see  the  chapter  "  Of  the  Court,"  page  204, 
note  2,  and  fseems  to  have  been  chiefly  known  by  his  love  for  eating  and 
drinking,  his  eccentricities  and  his  debauchery. 


OF   MANKIND.  313 

to  keep  one,  could  not  tempt  him  to  break  them  ;  he  is 
overburdened  with  superfluities,  to  which  he  is  so  accus- 
tomed that  he  cannot  do  without  them.  He  thus  in- 
creases and  strengthens  the  ties  which  bind  him  to 
life,  and  employs  the  remainder  of  it  in  making  its  loss 
more  grievous.  Was  he  not  already  sufficiently  afraid 
of  dying .-' 

(121.)  Gnathon  1  lives  for  no  one  but  himself,  and  the 
rest  of  the  world  are  to  him  as  if  they  did  not  exist.  He 
is  not  satisfied  with  occupying  the  best  seat  at  table,  but 
he  must  take  the  seats  of  two  other  guests,  and  forgets 
that  the  dinner  was  not  provided  for  him  alone,  but  for 
the  company  as  well ;  he  lays  hold  of  every  dish,  and 
looks  on  each  course  as  his  own ;  he  never  sticks  to 
one  single  dish  until  he  has  tried  them  all,  and  would 
like  to  enjoy  them  all  at  one  and  the  same  time.  At 
table  his  hands  serve  for  a  knife  and  fork ;  he  paws  the 
meat  over  and  over  again,  and  tears  it  to  pieces,  so 
that  if  the  other  guests  wish  to  dine,  it  must  be  on  his 
leavings.  He  does  not  spare  them  any  of  those  filthy 
and  disgusting  habits  which  are  enough  to  spoil  the 
appetite  of  the  most  hungry ;  the  gravy  and  sauce  run 
over  his  chin  and  beard  ;  if  he  takes  part  of  a  stew  out 
of  a  dish,  he  spills  it  by  the  way  over  another  dish  and 
on  the  cloth,  so  you  may  distinguish  him  by  his  track. 
He  eats  with  a  great  deal  of  smacking  and  noise,  rolls 
his  eyes,  and  uses  the  table  as  a  manger,  picks  his  teeth 
and  continues  eating ;  he  makes  every  p  ace  his  home, 
and  will  have  as  much  elbow-room  in  church  and  in  a 
theatre  as  if  he  were  in  his  own  room.     When  he  rides 


1  Louis  Roger  Danse,  a  canon  of  the  Sainte-Chapelle,  and  a  noted  gour- 
mand, is  supposed  to  have  sat  for  Gnathon,  as  well  as  for  the  stout  Canon 
Evrard  in  Boileau's  Lutrin. 


314  OF    MANKIND, 

in  a  coach,  it  must  always  be  forward,  for  he  says  that  any 
other  seat  will  make  him  fall  in  a  swoon,  if  we  can 
believe  him.  When  he  travels  he  is  always  in  advance 
of  his  companions,  so  as  to  get  first  to  the  inn,  and 
choose  the  best  room  and  the  best  bed  for  himself; 
he  makes  use  of  everybody,  and  his  own  and  other 
people's  servants  run  about  and  do  his  errands  ;  every- 
thing is  his  he  lays  his  hands  on,  even  clothes  and 
luggage  ;  he  disturbs  every  one,  but  does  not  incon- 
venience himself  for  anybody  ;  he  pities  no  one,  and 
knows  no  other  indispositions  but  his  own,  his  over- 
feeding and  biliousness  ;  he  laments  no  person's  death, 
fears  no  one's  but  his  own,  and  to  redeem  his  own  life, 
would  wiUingly  consent  to  see  the  entire  human  race 
become  extinct. 

(122.)  Clito  1  never  had  but  two  things  to  do  in  his  life, 
to  dine  at  noon  and  to  eat  supper  in  the  evening  ;  2  he 
seems  only  born  for  digestion,  and  has  only  one  subject 
of  conversation,  namely,  the  e7ttrdes  of  the  last  dinner 
he  was  present  at,  and  how  many  different  kinds  of 
potages  ^  there  were  ;  he  then  talks  of  the  roasts  and 
entremets;  remembers  precisely  what  dishes  were  brought 
up  after  the  first  course,  does  not  forget  the  side-dishes, 
the  fruit  and  the  assiettesj^  names  all  the  wines  and 
every  kind  of  liquor  he  has  drunk  ;  shows  himself  as 
well  acquainted  as  a  man  can  possibly  be  with  culinary 
language,  and  makes  his  hearer  long  to  be  at  a  good 

1  The  Count  d'OIonne,  a  well-known  lover  of  good  cheer,  who  died  in 
1690,  is  said  to  have  been  limned  as  Clito  ;  others  think  it  was  another 
gourmet,  M.  de  Bruslard,  Count  de  Broussain,  who  lived  until  1693. 

2  See  page  179,  note  i. 

3  lihc  fotages,  in  La  Bruyere's  time,  different  from  what  is  now  under- 
stood by  them,  seem  to  have  been  a  sort  of  stew. 

*  These  were  either  entremets  or  side-dishes  not  larger  than  could  be 
contained  in  a  plate  or  assiette. 


OF    MANKIND.  315 

dinner,  provided  he  were  not  there.  He  prides  himself 
on  his  palate  which  cannot  be  imposed  upon,  and  has 
never  been  exposed  to  the  terrible  inconvenience  of 
being  compelled  to  eat  a  wretched  stew  or  to  drink  an 
indifferent  wine.  He  is  a  remarkable  person  in  his 
way,  who  has  brought  the  art  of  good  living  to  the 
highest  perfection  ;  there  never  will  be  another  man 
who  ate  so  much  and  so  nicely  ;  he  is,  therefore,  the 
supreme  arbiter  of  dainty  bits,  and  'it  would  hardly  be 
allowable  to  like  anything  he  did  not  approve  of.  But 
he  is  no  more  !  When  he  was  almost  dying  he  still 
would  be  carried  to  the  table,  and  had  guests  to  dinner  on 
the  day  of  his  death.  Wherever  he  may  be  he  is  sure  to 
eat ;  and  should  he  rise  from  the  grave  it  will  be  to  eat. 
(123.)  Ruffinus'  hair  begins  to  turn  grey,  but  he  is 
healthy ;  his  ruddy  cheeks  and  sparkling  eyes  promise 
him  at  least  twenty  years  more  ;  he  is  lively,  jovial, 
familiar,  and  does  not  care  for  anything ;  he  laughs 
heartily,  even  when  he  is  alone,  and  without  any  cause  ; 
he  is  satisfied  with  himself,  with  his  family,  his  little 
fortune,  and  calls  himself  fortunate.  Some  time  since 
he  lost  his  only  son,  a  young  man  of  great  promise,  who 
might  have  become  an  honour  to  his  family  ;  other  people 
shed  tears,  but  he  did  not,  and  merely  said,  "  My  son  is 
dead,  and  his  mother  will  soon  follow  him,"  and  then 
he  was  comforted.  He  has  no  passions,  no  friends  nor 
enemies  ;  no  one  troubles  him ;  everybody  and  every- 
thing suits  him ;  he  speaks  to  those  he  never  saw  before 
with  the  same  freedom  and  confidence  as  to  those  he  calls 
his  old  friends,  and  very  soon  tells  them  his  bad  jokes 
and  stories.  Some  people  address  him  and  then  leave 
him,  but  he  does  not  mind  it,  and  the  tale  he  began  to 
one  person  he  finishes  to  another  who  has  just  come. 


3l6  OF    MANKIND. 

(124.)  N  .  .  .  is  less  worn  with  age  than  disease, 
for  he  is  not  more  than  threescore  and  eight,  but  he 
has  the  gout  and  suffers  from  nephritic  colic  ;  he  looks 
quite  emaciated  and  has  a  greenish  complexion,  which 
forebodes  no  good ;  yet  he  has  his  lands  marled,  and 
reckons  he  has  no  need  to  manure  them  these  fifteen 
years  ;  he  has  some  young  wood  planted,  and  hopes 
that  in  less  than  twenty  years  it  will  afford  him  a  deli- 
cious shade.  He  has  a  house  built  of  free-stone,  and 
at  the  corners  are  iron  clasps  to  make  it  stronger;  he 
assures  you,  coughing,  and  in  a  weak  and  feeble  tone 
of  voice,  that  it  will  last  for  ever.  He  walks  every  day 
among  the  workmen,  leaning  on  one  of  his  servants' 
arms,  shows  his  friends  what  he  has  done,  and  tells 
them  what  he  purposes  to  do.  He  does  not  build  for 
his  children,  for  he  has  none,  nor  for  his  heirs,  who  are 
scoundrels  and  who  have  quarrelled  with  him  ;  he  only 
builds  to  enjoy  it  himself,  and  to-morrow  he  will  be  dead. 

(125.)  Antagoras  has  a  familiar  ^  and  popular  counte- 
nance ;  he  is  as  well  known  to  the  mob  as  the  parish 
beadle  or  as  the  saint  carved  in  stone  adorning  the 
high  altar.  Every  morning  he  runs  up  and  down  the 
courts  and  the  offices  of  parliament,2  and  every  even- 
ing up  and  down  the  streets  and  highways  of  the  town. 
He  has  had  a  lawsuit  these  forty  years,  and  has  always 
been  nearer  his  death  than  the  end  of  his  legal  troubles. 
There  has  not  been  any  celebrated  case  or  any  long  and 
difficult  lawsuit  tried  that  he  has  not  had  something  to 
do  with  ;  his  name  is  in  the  mouth  of  every  barrister, 
and  agrees  as  naturally  with  such  words  as  "plaintiff" 
or  "  defendant "  as  an  adjective  does  with  a  substan- 
tive.     He  is  everybody's  kinsman,  and  disliked  by  all ; 

1   Trivial  m  French.    See  page  136,  note  i.        2  See  page  181,  note  i. 


OF   MANKIND.  317 

there  is  scarcely  a  family  of  whom  he  does  not  com- 
plain, or  who  does  not  complain  of  him ;  he  is  perpet- 
ually engaged  in  seizing  some  property,  in  asking  for  an 
injunction  1  to  prevent  the  sale  of  an  office  2  or  some 
stocks,  in  using  the  privilege  of  pleading  in  certain 
cases  3  or  of  seeing  some  judgments  put  into  execution  ; 
besides  this,  he  is  every  day  at  some  meeting  of  creditors, 
is  appointed  chairman  of  their  committee,*  and  loses 
money  by  every  bankruptcy ;  he  finds  some  spare 
moments  for  a  few  private  visits,  and  like  an  old  gossip  ^ 
talks  about  lawsuits,  and  tells  you  all  the  news  about 
them.  You  leave  him  one  hour  at  one  end  of  the  town 
and  find  him  the  next  at  another  end,^  where  he  arrived 
before  you,  and  has  been  giving  again  all  the  details  of 
his  lawsuit.  If  you  yourself  are  engaged  in  a  lawsuit 
and  wait  early  the  next  morning  on  your  judge, '^  you 
are  sure  to  meet  Antagoras,  who  must  first  leave  before 
you  can  be  admitted.^ 

(126.)  Some  men  pass  their  long  lives  in  defending 
themselves  and  in  injuring  other  people,  and  die  at  last, 
worn  out  with  age,  after  having  caused  as  many  evils  as 
they  suffered. 

(127.)  There  must,   I   confess,   be   seizures   of  land, 


1  This  asking  for  an  injunction  was  called  iopposer  au  sceau,  literally  "  to 
oppose  one's  self  to  the  seal." 

2  See  page  130,  note,  and  page  192,  note. 

3  Cofnmittimus,  in  the  original. 

*  The  chairman  is  the  syndic  de  direction. 

*  Vieil  meubie  de  ruelle.     V^ieil  was,  in  La  Bruyere's  time,  often  used 
instead  oi  vieux,  even  before  a  consonant.     For  ruelle  see  page  65,  note  i. 

*  The  original  speaks  of  the  "  Marais"  (see  page  172,  note  i),  and  of  the 
"  Grand  Faubourg,"  probably  the  "  Faubourg  Saint-Germain." 

1  See  page  72,  note  2. 

8  The  "  Keys  "  name  for  Antagoras   two  eccentric  noblemen  of  the  time 
now  wholly  imknown,  a  Count  de  Montluc  and  a  Marquis  de  Fourille. 


3l8  OF   MANKIND. 

distraint  on  furniture,  prisons,  and  punishments  j  but 
without  taking  into  consideration  justice,  law,  and  stern 
necessity,  it  has  always  astonished  me  to  observe  with 
what  violence  some  men  treat  other  men. 

(128,)  Certain  wild  animals,  male  and  female,  are 
scattered  over  the  country,  dark,  livid,  and  quite  tanned 
by  the  sun,  who  are  chained,  as  it  were,  to  the  land  they 
are  always  digging  and  turning  up  and  down  with  an 
unwearied  stubbornness ;  their  voice  is  somewhat  arti- 
culate, and  when  they  stand  erect  they  discover  a 
human  face,  and,  indeed,  are  men.  At  night  they  retire 
to  their  burrows,  where  they  live  on  black  bread,  water, 
and  roots  ;  they  spare  other  men  the  trouble  of  sowing, 
tilling  the  ground,  and  reaping  for  their  sustenance,  and, 
therefore,  deserve  not  to  be  in  want  of  that  bread  they 
sow  themselves. 

(129.)  Don  Fernando  resides  in  his  province,  and  is 
idle,  ignorant,  slanderous,  quarrelsome,  knavish,  intem- 
perate, and  impertinent ;  but  he  draws  his  sword  against 
his  neighbours,  and  exposes  his  life  for  the  smallest 
trifle ;  he  has  killed  several  men,  and  will  be  killed  in 
his  turn.i 

(130.)  A  provincial  nobleman,  useless  to  his  country, 
his  family  and  himself,  often  without  a  roof  to  cover 
himself,  without  clothes  or  the  least  merit,  tells  you  ten 
times  a  day  that  he  is  of  noble  lineage,  despises  all 
graduates,   doctors,  and   presidents  of  parliaments  2  as 


1  In  Louis  XIV. 's  time  France  was  divided  into  thirty-three  provinces, 
and  as  communications  were  difficult,  the  inferior  noblemen  were  what  our 
author  describes  them  to  be,  and  had  no  other  amusements  but  duelling, 
dining,  and  drinking. 

2  The  original  has/oumtres  et  mortiers ;  the  gowns  of  bachelors,  licen- 
tiates, and  doctors  of  the  various  faculties  were  bordered  and  even  some- 
times lined  with  fur.     For  tnortier  see  page  i68,  note  3. 


OF   MANKIND.  3I9 

upstarts,  and  spends  all  his  time  among  parchments  and 
old  title-deeds,  which  he  would  not  part  with  to  be  ap- 
pointed chancellor.^ 

(131.)  Power,  favour,  genius,  riches,  dignity,  nobility, 
force,  industry,  capacity,  virtue,  vice,  weakness,  stupidity, 
poverty,  impotence,  plebeianism,  and  servility  generally 
are  combined  in  men  in  endless  variety.  These  qualities 
mixed  together  in  a  thousand  various  manners,  and 
compensating  one  another  in  many  ways,  form  the 
different  states  and  conditions  of  human  life.  Moreover, 
people  who  are  acquainted  with  each  other's  strength 
and  weakness  act  reciprocally,  for  they  believe  it  their 
duty ;  they  know  their  equals,  are  conscious  that  some 
men  are  their  superiors,  and  that  they  are  superior  to 
some  others ;  and  hence  familiarity,  respect  or  defer- 
ence, pride  or  contempt.  This  is  the  reason  why,  in 
places  of  public  resort,  we  see  each  moment  some  persons 
we  wish  to  accost  or  bow  to,  and  others  we  pretend  not 
to  know,  and  still  less  desire  to  meet ;  and  why  we  are 
proud  of  being  with  the  first  and  ashamed  of  the  others. 
Hence  it  even  happens  that  the  very  person  with  whom 
you  think  it  an  honour  to  be  seen,  and  with  whom  you 
are  desirous  to  converse,  deems  you  troublesome  and 
leaves  you  ;  and  that  often  the  very  person  who  blushes 
when  he  meets  others,  receives  the  same  treatment 
when  others  meet  him,  and  that  a  man  who  treated 
others  with  contempt  is  himself  disdained,  for  it  is 
common  enough  to  despise  those  who  despise  us.  How 
wretched  is  such  a  behaviour;  and  since  it  is  certain 
that  in  this  strange  interchange  we  gain  on  one  side 
what  we  lose   on  another,  should  we  not  do  better  to 

1  In  French  les  masses  d'un  ckancelier,  for  the  mace  was  always  carried 
before  the  Chancellor  of  France. 


320  OF    MANKIND. 

abandon  all  haughtiness  and  pride,  qualities  so  unsuited 
to  frail  humanity,  and  make  an  arrangement  to  treat 
one  another  with  mutual  kindness,  by  whiclj  we  should 
at  once  gain  the  advantage  of  never  being  mortified 
ourselves,  and  the  happiness,  which  is  just  as  great,  of 
never  mortifying  others  ? 

(132,)  Instead  of  being  frightened,  or  even  ashamed, 
at  being  called  a  philosopher,  everybody  in  this  world 
ought  to  have  a  strong  tincture  of  philosophy  ;i  it  suits 
every  one :  its  practice  is  useful  to  people  of  all  ages, 
sexes,  and  conditions  ;  it  consoles  us  for  the  happiness 
of  others,  for  the  promotion  of  those  whom  we  think 
undeserving,  for  failures,  and  decay  of  strength  and 
beauty ;  it  steels  us  against  poverty,  age,  sickness,  and 
death,  against  fools  and  buffoons  ;  it  will  help  us  to 
pass  away  our  life  without  a  wife,  or  to  bear  with  the 
one  with  whom  we  have  to  live. 

(133.)  Men  are  one  hour  overjoyed  at  trifles,  and  the 
next  overcome  with  grief  for  a  mere  disappointment ; 
nothing  is  more  unequal  and  incoherent  than  the  emotions 
stirring  their  hearts  and  minds  in  so  short  a  time.  If 
they  would  set  no  higher  value  on  the  things  of  this  world 
than  they  really  deserve,  this  evil  would  be  cured. 

(i  34.)  It  is  as  difficult  to  find  a  vain  man  who  believes 
himself  as  happy  as  he  deserves,  as  a  modest  man  who 
believes  himself  too  unhappy. 

(135.)  When  I  contemplate  the  fortune  of  princes 
and  of  their  Ministers,  which  is  not  mine,  I  am  prevented 
from  thinking  myself  unhappy  by  considering,  at  the 
same  time,  the  fate  of  the  vine-dresser,  the  soldier,  and 
the  stone-cutter. 

1  La  Bruyere  adds  in  a  note  :  "We  can  only  mean  that  philosophy  which 
is  depending  on  the  Christian  religion." 


OF   MANKIND.  32  I 

(136.)  There  is  but  one  real  misfortune  which  can 
befall  a  man,  and  that  is  to  find  himself  at  fault,  and  to 
have  something  to  reproach  himself  with. 

(137.)  The  generality  of  men  are  more  capable  of  great 
efforts  to  obtain  their  ends  than  of  continuous  persever- 
ance ;  their  occupation  and  inconstancy  deprives  them  of 
the  fruits  of  the  most  promising  beginnings ;  they  are 
often  overtaken  by  those  who  started  some  time  after 
them,  and  who  walk  slowly  but  without  intermission. 

(138.)  I  almost  dare  affirm  that  men  know  better  how 
to  plan  certain  measures  than  to  pursue  them,  how  to 
resolve  what  they  must  needs  do  and  say  than  to  do  or 
to  say  what  is  necessary.  A  man  is  firmly  determined 
not  to  mention  a  certain  subject  when  negotiating  some 
business ;  and  afterwards,  either  through  passion,  gar- 
rulity, or  in  the  heat  of  conversation,  it  is  the  first  thing 
which  escapes  him. 

(139.)  Men  are  indolent  in  what  is  their  particular 
duty,  whilst  they  think  it  very  deserving,  or  rather  whilst 
it  pleases  their  vanity,  to  busy  themselves  about  those 
things  which  do  not  concern  them,  nor  suit  their  con- 
dition of  life  or  character. 

(140.)  There  is  as  much  difference  between  a  hetero- 
geneous character  a  man  adopts  and  his  real  character 
as  there  is  between  a  mask  and  a  countenance  of  flesh 
and  blood. 

(141.)  Telephus  has  some  intelligence,  but  ten  times 
less,  if  rightly  computed,  than  he  imagines  he  has ; 
therefore,  in  everything  he  says,  does,  meditates,  and 
projects,  he  goes  ten  times  beyond  his  capacity,  and 
thus  always  exceeds  the  true  measure  of  his  intellectual 
power  and  grasp.  And  this  argument  is  well  founded. 
He  is  limited  by  a  barrier,  as  it  were,  and   should  be 

X 


322  OF    MANKIND. 

warned  not  to  pass  it ;  but  he  leaps  over  it,  launches 
out  of  his  sphere,  and  though  he  knows  his  own  weak- 
ness, always  displays  it ;  he  speaks  about  what  he  does 
not  understand,  or  badly  understands ;  attempts  things 
above  his  power,  and  aims  at  what  is  too  much  for 
him ;  he  thinks  himself  the  equal  of  the  very  best  men 
ever  seen.  "Whatever  is  good  and  commendable  in  him 
is  obscured  by  an  affectation  of  doing  something  great 
and  wonderful ;  people  can  easily  see  what  he  is  not, 
but  have  to  guess  what  he  really  is.  He  is  a  man  who 
never  measures  his  ability,  and  does  not  know  himself ; 
his  true  character  is  not  to  be  satisfied  with  the  one  that 
suits  him,  and  which  is  his  own. 

(142.)  The  intelligence  of  a  highly  cultivated  man  is 
not  always  the  same,  and  has  its  ebbs  and  flows  ;  some- 
times he  is  full  of  animation,  but  cannot  keep  it  up ; 
then,  if  he  be  wise,  he  will  say  little,  not  write  at  all, 
and  not  endeavour  either  to  draw  upon  his  imagination, 
or  try  to  please.  Does  a  man  sing  who  has  a  cold  ?  and 
should  he  not  rather  wait  till  he  recovers  his  voice .'' 

A  blockhead  is  an  automaton, ^  a  piece  of  machinery 
moved  by  springs  and  weights,  always  turning  him 
about  in  one  direction ;  he  always  displays  the  same 
equanimity,  is  uniform,  and  never  alters  ;  if  you  have 
seen  him  once  you  have  seen  him  as  he  ever  was,  and 
will  be  ;  he  is  at  best  but  like  a  lowing  ox  or  a  whistling 
blackbird ;  I  may  say,  he  acts  according  to  the  persist- 
ence and  doggedness  of  his  nature  and  species.  What 
you  see  least  is  his  torpid  soul,  which  is  never  stirring, 
but  always  dormant. 

(143.)  A  blockhead  never  dies;  or  if,  according  to 

1  An  allusion  to  the  theory  of  Descartes  (seepage  151,  note  2),  that  beasts 
were  only  automatons  without  any  consciousness  of  their  acts. 


OF   MANKIND.  323 

our  manner  of  speaking,  he  dies  at  one  time  or  other,  I 
may  truly  say  he  gains  by  it,  and  that,  when  others  die, 
he  begins  to  live.  His  mind  then  thinks,  reasons,  draws 
inferences  and  conclusions,  judges,  foresees,  and  does 
everything  it  never  did  before ;  it  finds  itself  released 
from  a  lump  of  flesh,  in  which  it  seemed  buried  without 
having  anything  to  do,  and  without  any  motion,  or  at 
least  any  worthy  of  that  name ;  I  should  almost  say,  it 
blushes  to  have  lodged  in  such  a  body,  as  well  as  for  its 
own  crude  and  imperfect  organs,  to  which  it  has  been 
shackled  so  long,  and  with  which  it  could  only  produce 
a  blockhead  or  a  fool.  Now  it  is  equal  to  the  greatest 
of  those  minds  which  animated  the  bodies  of  the  cleverest 
or  the  most  intellectual  men,  and  the  mind  of  the  merest 
clodhopper  ^  is  no  longer  to  be  distinguished  from  those 
of  Cond^,  Richelieu,  Pascal,  and  Lingendes.^ 

(144.)  A  false  delicacy  in  familiar  actions,  in  manners 
or  conduct,  is  not  so  called  because  it  is  simulated,  but 
because  it  is  really  employed  in  things  and  on  occasions 
where  it  is  utterly  out  of  place.  On  the  other  hand,  a 
false  delicacy  in  taste  or  temper  is  only  so  when  it  is 
feigned  or  affected.  Emilia  screams  as  loud  as  she  can 
when  a  trifling  accident  happens,  and  when  she  is  not 
a  bit  afraid  ;  another  lady  affectedly  turns  pale  at  the 
sight  of  a  mouse,  or  is  fond  of  violets,  and  swoons  at 
the  scent  of  a  tuberose. 

(145.)  Who  would   venture   and   flatter   himself  to 


1  In  French  "  Alain,"  the  name  of  a  rustic  servant  in  Mollfere's  Ecole  des 
Fetnmes. 

*  All  the  names  given  by  our  author  have  already  been  mentioned  before, 
except  that  of  Claude  de  Lingendes  (1595-1660),  one  of  the  best  preachers 
among  the  Jesuits,  and  whose  reputation  must  have  been  great  to  quote  him 
with  such  illustrious  dead  ;  and  whilst  Bossuet,  Bourdaloue,  and  Fdnelon 
were  still  alive. 


324  OF   MANKIND. 

satisfy  mankind  ?  Let  no  prince,  however  good  and 
powerful,  pretend  to  do  so.  Let  him  promote  their  plea- 
sures,^ let  him  open  his  palace  to  his  courtiers,  and  even 
admit  them  amongst  his  own  followers ;  let  him  show 
them  other  spectacles  in  those  very  places  of  which 
the  mere  sight  is  a  spectacle  ;  ^  let  him  give  them  their 
choice  of  games,  concerts,  and  refreshments,  and  add 
to  this  magnificent  cheer,  amidst  the  most  complete 
liberty ;  join  with  them  in  their  amusements ;  let  the 
great  man  become  affable,  and  the  hero  humane  and 
familiar,  and  this  would  not  be  sufficient.  Men  finally 
tire  of  the  very  things  which  at  first  enraptured  them  ; 
they  would  forsake  the  table  of  the  gods  ;  and  nectar, 
in  time,  would  become  insipid.  Through  vanity  and 
wretched  over-refinement,  they  do  not  hesitate  to  criti- 
cise things  which  are  perfect ;  in  spite  of  every  exertion, 
their  taste,  if  we  may  believe  them,  can  never  be  gratified, 
and  even  regal  expenditure  would  be  unsuccessful;  malice 
prompts  them  to  do  what  they  can  to  lessen  the  joy 
others  may  feel  in  satisfying  them.  These  same  people, 
commonly  so  sycophantic  and  complaisant,  are  liable  to 
forget  themselves ;  sometimes  they  are  scarcely  to  be 
recognised,  and  we  see  the  man  even  in  the  courtier. 

(146.)  Affectation  in  gesture,  speech,  and  manners  is 
frequently  the  outcome  of  indolence  or  indifference ; 
whereas  a  great  passion  or  matters  of  importance  seem 
to  compel  a  man  to  become  natural. 

(147.)  Men  have  no  characters,  or  if  they  have,  it  is 
that  of  having  no  constant  and  invariable  one,  by  which 
they  may  at  all  times  be  known ;  they  cannot  bear  to 
be  always  the  same,  to  persevere  either  in  regularity  or 

1  An  allusion  to  the  entertainments  given  by  Louis  XIV. 

2  Such  places  were,  in  our  author's  time,  Versailles,  Fontaiuebleau,  Marly. 


OF   MANKIND.  325 

license ;  and  if  they  sometimes  forsake  one  virtue  for 
another,  they  more  often  get  disgusted  with  one  vice 
through  another  vice.  Their  passions  run  counter  to 
another,  and  their  foibles  contradict  each  other ;  ex- 
tremes are  easier  to  them  than  a  regular  and  natural 
conduct  would  be ;  they  dislike  moderation,  and  are 
extravagant  in  good  as  well  as  evil  things ;  and  when 
they  no  longer  are  able  to  stand  excesses  they  relieve 
themselves  by  change.  Adrastes  was  such  a  profligate 
libertine  that  he  found  it  comparatively  easy  to  comply 
with  the  fashion  and  to  become  devout ;  he  would 
have  found  it  much  more  difficult  to  become  an  honest 
man.i 

(148.)  What  is  the  reason  that  some  people,  who  can 
meet  the  most  trying  disasters  with  coolness,  lose  all 
command  over  themselves  and  fly  into  a  p3.ssion  at  the 
least  inconvenience  ?  Such  conduct  is  not  wise,  for 
virtue  is  always  the  same  and  does  not  contradict  itself ; 
it  is  a  vice,  then,  and  nothing  else  but  vanity,  roused 
and  stirred  up  by  those  events  which  make  a  noise  in 
the  world  and  when  there  is  something  to  be  gained,  but 
which  is  negligent  in  all  other  things. 

(149.)  We  seldom  repent  talking  too  little,  but  very      ^ 
often  talking  too  much :  this   is  a  common  and  well-    t  \ 
known   maxim,   which  everybody  knows    and   nobody     1   ^ 
practises. 

(150.)  To  say  things  of  our  enemies  which  are  not 
true,  and  to  lie  to  defame  them,  is  to  avenge  ourselves 
on  ourselves,  and  give  them  too  great  an  advantage 
over  us. 

(151.)  If  men   knew   how   to   blush   at    their   own 

1  This  seems  to  hit  at  the  courtiers  of  Louis  XIV.,  who  pretended  to 
become  devout  in  order  to  please  the  monarch  and  Madame  de  Maintenon. 


326  OF   MANKIND. 

actions,  how  many  crimes,  and  not  only  those  that  are 
hidden,  but  those  that  are  pubUc  and  well  known,  would 
never  be  committed  ! 

(152.)  If  some  men  are  not  so  honest  as  they  might 
be,  the  fault  lies  in  their  bringing  up. 

(153.)  There  exists  in  some  people  a  happy  mediocrity 
V  of  intelligence  which  contributes  to  keep  them  discreet. 

(154.)  Rods  and  ferulas  are  for  children  ;  1  crowns, 

sceptres,    caps,    gowns,    fasces^    kettledrums,    archers' 

dresses  for  men.^     Reason  and  justice,   without  their 

/   gewgaws,  would  neither  convince  nor  intimidate ;  man 

who  has  intelligence,  is  led  by  his  eyes  and  his  ears. 

(155.)  Timon,  or  the  misanthrope,  may  have  an  aus- 
tere and  savage  mind,  but  outwardly  he  is  polite,  and 
even  ceremonious ;  he  does  not  lose  all  command 
over  himself,  and  does  not  become  familiar  with  other 
men ;  on  the  contrary,  he  treats  them  politely  and 
gravely,  and  in  a  manner  that  does  not  encourage  any 
freedom  to  be  taken ;  he  does  not  desire  to  be  better 
acquainted  with  them  nor  to  make  friends  of  them, 
and  is  somewhat  like  a  lady  visiting  another  lady.^ 

(156.)  Reason  is  ever  aUied  to  truth,  and  is  almost 
identical  with  it ;  only  one  way  leads  to  it,  but  a  thousand 
roads  can  lead  us  astray.  The  study  of  wisdom  is  not 
so  extensive  as  that  of  fools  and  coxcombs  ;  he  who  has 
seen  none  but  polite  and  reasonable  men,  either  does  not 

^  La  Bruyere  is  not  in  advance  of  his  times  in  what  regards  corporal 
punishment :  Montaigne  was. 

2  For  "caps"  and  "gowns"  the  original  has  mortier  and  yburrures 
(see  page  i68,  note  3,  and  page  318,  note  2)  ;  for  Jhsces  see  page  139,  note  5. 

2  Some  commentators  think  that  the  Marshal  de  Villeroy  (see  page  54, 
note  3)  is  meant  by  Timon,  but  this  cannot  be,  as  the  Marshal  was  rather 
ostentatious,  and  not  at  all  a  misanthrope.  Perhaps  our  author  thought  of 
giving  another  version  of  Moliere's  Alceste,  as  later  on  he  gives  another  of 
Tartuffe,  in  his  portrait  of  Onuphre,  in  the  chapter  "  Of  Fashion,"  page  395, 

§  24- 


OF    MANKIND.  327 

know  men,  or  knows  them  only  by  halves.  Whatever 
difference  may  be  noticed  in  disposition  and  manners, 
intercourse  with  the  world  and  politeness  produce  the 
same  appearance  in  all,  and  externally  make  men 
resemble  one  another  in  some  way  which  mutually 
pleases,  and  being  common  to  all,  leads  us  to  believe 
that  everything  else  is  in  the  same  proportion.  A  man, 
on  the  contrary,  who  mixes  with  the  common  people,  or 
retires  into  the  country,  will,  if  he  has  eyes,  in  a  short 
time  make  some  strange  discoveries,  and  see  things 
which  are  new  to  him,  and  which  he  never  before  ima- 
gined existed ;  gradually  and  by  experience  he  increases 
his  knowledge  of  humanity,  and  almost  calculates  in 
how  many  different  ways  man  may  become  unbearable. 

(157.)  After  having  maturely  considered  mankind 
and  found  out  the  insincerity  of  their  thoughts,  opinions, 
inclinations,  and  affections,  we  are  compelled  to  ac 
knowledge  that  stubbornness  does  them  more  harm 
than  inconstancy. 

(158,)  How  many  weak,  effeminate,  careless  minds 
exist  without  any  extraordinary  faults,  and  who  yet  are 
proper  subjects  for  satire  !  How  many  various  kinds  of 
ridicule  are  disseminated  amongst  the  whole  human 
race,  which  by  their  very  eccentricity  are  of  little  con- 
sequence, and  are  not  ameliorated  by  instruction  or 
morality.  Such  vices  are  individual  and  not  contagious, 
and  are  rather  personal  than  belonging  to  humanity  in 
general. 


XIII. 

OF  OPINIONS. 

(i.)  XTOTHING  is  more  like  a  deep-rooted  convic- 
tion than  obstinate  conceit ;  whence  proceed 
parties,  intrigues,  and  heresies. 

(2.)  We  do  not  always  let  our  thoughts  run  on  one 
and  the  same  subject  without  varying  them  :  infatuation  ^ 
and  disgust  closely  follow  on  one  another. 

(3.)  Great  things  astonish  and  small  dishearten  us ; 
,  custom  familiarises  us  with  both. 


1  The  original  has  enUtement,  "infatuation,"  "obstinacy,"  which  some- 
times meant  "enthusiasm,"  as  in  Moliere's  Fcntmes  Savantes,  act  iii. 
scene  2,  "  J'aime  la  poesie  avec  entetement." 


OF   OPINIONS.  329 

(4.)  Two  qualities  quite  opposed  to  one  another 
equally  bias  our  minds  :  custom  and  novelty. 

(5.)  There  is  nothing  so  mean  and  so  truly  vulgar 
as  extravagantly  to  praise  those  very  persons  of  whom 
we  had  but  very  indifferent  opinions  before  their  pro- 
motion. 

(6.)  A  prince's  favour  does  not  exclude  merit,  nor 
does  it  even  suppose  its  existence. 

(7.)  We  are  puffed  up  with  pride  and  entertain  a  high 
opinion  of  ourselves  and  of  the  correctness  of  our  judg- 
ment, and  yet  it  is  surprising  we  neglect  to  make  use  of 
it  in  speaking  of  other  people's  merit ;  fashion,  the  fancy 
of  the  people  or  of  the  prince,  carry  us  away  like  a 
torrent ;  we  extol  rather  what  is  praised  than  what  is 
praiseworthy. 

(8.)  I  doubt  whether  anything  is  approved  and  com- 
mended more  reluctantly  than  what  deserves  most  to 
be  approved  and  praised ;  and  whether  virtue,  merit, 
beauty,  good  actions,  and  the  best  writings  produce  a 
more  natural  and  certain  impression  than  envy,  jealousy, 
and  antipathy.  A  pious  person  ^  does  not  speak  well 
of  a  saint,  but  of  another  pious  person.  If  a  handsome 
woman  allows  that  another  woman  is  beautiful,  we  may 
safely  conclude  she  excels  her ;  or  if  a  poet  praises  a 
brother  poet's  verses,  it  is  pretty  sure  they  are  wretched 
and  spiritless. 

(9.)  Men  do  not  easily  like  one  another,  and  are  not 
much  inclined  to  commend  each  other.  Neither  actions, 
behaviour,  thoughts,  nor  expression  please  them  nor  are 
satisfactory ;  they  substitute  for  what  is  recited,  told, 
or  read  to  them  what  they  themselves  would  have  done 
in  such  a  circumstance,  or  what  they  think  and   have 

1  Our  author  adds  in  a  note,  "a  pretended  pious  person." 


330  OF   OPINIONS. 

written  on  such  a  subject ;  and  are  so  full  of  their  own 
ideas  that  they  have  no  room  for  another's. 

(id.)  Men  are  generally  inclined  to  become  dissolute 
and  frivolous,  and  such  a  large  number  of  pernicious  or 
ridiculous  examples  is  to  be  found  in  this  world,  that  I 
should  feel  inclined  to  believe  that  eccentricity,  if  kept 
within  bounds  and  not  gone  too  far,  would  almost  be 
like  correct  reasoning  and  regular  behaviour. 

"  We  must  do  as  others  do  "  is  a  dangerous  maxim, 
which  nearly  always  means  "  we  must  do  wrong  "  if  it 
is  applied  to  any  but  external  things  of  no  consequence, 
and  depending  on  custom,  fashion,  or  decency. 

(II.)  If  men  were  not  more  like  bears  and  panthers 
than  men,  if  they  were  honest,  just  to  themselves  and 
to  others,  what  would  become  of  the  law,  the  text  and 
the  prodigious  amount  of  commentaries  made  on  it ; 
what  of  petitions  and  actions,^  and  everything  people 
call  jurisprudence  .''     And  to  what  would  those  persons 
be  reduced  who  owe  all  their  importance  and  pride  to 
the  authority  with  which  they  are  invested  for  seeing 
those  laws  executed  ?     If  those  very  men  were  honest 
and  sincere,  and  had  no  prejudices,  the  wrangles  of  the  . 
schoolmen,  scholasticism,  and  all  controversies   would 
ivanish.    If  all  men  were  temperate,  chaste,  and  moderate, 
/'what  would  be  the  use  of  that  mysterious  medical  jargon, 
j  a  gold-mine  for  those  persons  who  know  how  to  use  it  ? 
?  What  a  downfall  would  it  be  for  all  lawyers,  doctors, 
'  and  physicians  if  we  could  all  agree  to  become  wise  ! 
We  would  have    been  obliged  to  do  without  many 
men  great  in  peace  and  war.     Several  arts  and  sciences 
have  been  brought  to  a  high  degree  of  exquisite  perfec- 
tion, which,  so  far  from  being  necessary,  were  introduced 

1  The  original  \a&  pititoire  ^X.  posse ssoire,  printed  in  italics. 


OF   OPINIONS.  331 

into  the  world  as  remedies  for  those  evils  only  caused 
by  our  wickedness. 

How  many  things  have  sprung  up  since  Varro's  ^ 
times,  of  which  he  was  ignorant !  Such  a  knowledge  as 
Plato  or  Socrates  possessed  would  now  not  satisfy  us. 

(12.)  At  a  sermon,  a  concert,  or  in  a  picture  gallery, 
we  can  hear  in  different  parts  of  the  room  quite  contrary 
opinions  expressed  upoii  the  very  same  subject ;  and 
hence  I  draw  the  conclusion  that  in  all  kinds  of  works 
we  may  venture  to  insert  bad  things  as  well  as  good 
ones  ;  for  the  good  please  some  and  the  bad  others  ; 
and  we  do  not  risk  much  more  by  putting  in  the  very 
worst,  for  it  will  find  admirers. 

(13,)  The  phoenix  of  vocal  poetry  rose  out  of  his  own 
ashes,  and  in  one  and  the  same  day  saw  his  reputation 
lost  and  recovered.  That  same  judge  so  infallible  and 
yet  so  decided — I  mean  the  public — changed  his  views 
regarding  him,  and  either  was,  or  is  now,  in  error.  He 
who  should  say  to  day  that  Q.  ...  is  a  wretched  poet 
would  pronounce  as  bad  an  opinion  as  he  who  formerly 
said  he  was  a  good  one.^ 

(14.)  Chapelain  was  rich  and  Corneille  was  not; 
La  Pucelle  and  Rodogune  deserved  a  different  fate ;  ^ 
therefore,  it  has  always  been   a  question  why,  in  cer- 

1  M.  Terentius  Varro  (116-26  B.C.)  was  considered  one  of  the  most  learned 
among  the  Romans.  His  principal  works  are  De  re  rustica  and  De  Lingua 
latina. 

2  This  is  an  allusion  to  Quinault  (see  page  28,  note  2),  whose  tragedies 
were  all  bad,  but  whose  operas  were  considered  well  written.  (See  page  175, 
note  4.)   He  died  in  1688,  one  year  before  the  appearance  of  this  paragraph, 

3  J.  Chapelain  (1595-1674),  the  author  of  La  Pucelle  dOrUans,  an  epic 
poem  of  which  only  twelve  cantos  appeared,  was  the  wealthiest  of  all  the 
authors  of  his  time.  Rodogune^  Princtsse  des  Parthes,  one  of  the  most 
successful  tragedies  of  Pierre  Corneille,  had  been  acted  in  1644,  and  this 
great  dramatist  died  in  poverty  and  want  twenty  years  later,  at  the  age  of 
seventy-eight,  four  years  before  the  above  paragraph  was  published. 


332  OF   OPINIONS. 

tain  professions,  one  man  makes  his  fortune  and  another 
fails  ?  Men  should  look  for  the  reason  of  this  in 
their  own  whimsical  behaviour,  which,  on  most  impor- 
tant occasions,  when  their  business,  their  pleasures,  their 
health,  and  their  life  are  at  stake,  often  makes  them 
leave  what  is  best  and  take  what  is  worst. 

(15.)  The  profession  of  an  actor  was  considered 
infamous  among  the  Romans,  and  honourable  among 
the  Greeks  :  how  is  it  considered  amongst  us  ?  We  think 
of  them  like  the  Romans,  and  live  with  them  like  the 
Greeks. 

(16.)  It  was  sufficient  for  Bathyllus  to  be  a  panto- 
mimist  to  be  courted  by  the  Roman  ladies ;  for  Rhoe  to 
dance  on  the  stage,  or  for  Roscia  and  Nerina  ^  to  sing 
in  the  chorus  to  attract  a  crowd  of  lovers.  Vanity  and 
impudence,  the  consequences  of  being  too  powerful, 
made  the  Romans  lose  a  taste  for  pleasures  secretly 
and  mysteriously  enjoyed ;  they  were  fond  of  loving 
actresses,  without  any  jealousy  of  the  audience,  and 
shared  with  the  multitude  the  charms  of  their  mistresses  ; 
they  only  cared  to  show  they  loved  not  a  beauty  nor  an 
excellent  actress,  but  an  actress.^ 

(17.)  Nothing  better  demonstrates  how  men  regard 
science  and  literature,  and  of  what  use  they  are  con- 
sidered in  the  State,  than  the  recompense  assigned 
to  them,  and  the  idea  generally  entertained  of  those 
persons  who  resolve  to  cultivate  them.  There  is  not  a 
mere  handicraft  nor  ever  so  vile  a  position,  that  is  not 


1  Bathyllus  is  Le  Basque  or  Pecourt  (see  page  67,  note  2)  ;  the  names 
of  several  long-forgotten  female  dancers  or  singers  are  given  for  Riioe, 
Roscia — the  feminised  name  of  the  celebrated  Roman  actor  Roscius — and 
Nerina. 

-  An  allusion  to  the  wife  of  Dancourt  (1661-1725),  an  author  and  comic 
actor,  who  is,  as  an  actress,  said  to  have  been  neither  beautiful  nor  excellent. 


OF  OPINIONS.  333 

a  surer,  quicker,  and  more  certain  way  to  wealth.  An 
actor  lolling  in  his  coach  ^  bespatters  the  face  of  Cor- 
neille  walking  on  foot  With  many  people  learning  and 
pedantry  are  synonymous. 

Often  when  a  rich  man  speaks  and  speaks  of  science, 
the  learned  must  be  silent,  listen,  and  applaud,  at  least 
if  they  would  be  considered  something  else  besides 
learned. 

(i8.)  A  certain  boldness  is  required  to  vindicate  learn- 
ing (before  some  persons  strongly  prejudiced  against 
learned  men,  whom  they  call  ill-mannered,  wanting  in 
tact,  unfit  for  society,  and  whom  they  send  back,  stripped 
in  this  way,  to  their  study  and  their  books.  As  igno- 
rance is  easy,  and  not  difficult  to  acquire,  many  people 
embrace  it ;  and  these  form  a  large  majority  at  court 
and  in  the  city,  and  overpower  the  learned.  If  the  latter 
allege  in  their  favour  the  names  of  d'Estr^es,  de  Har- 
lay,  Bossuet,  Siguier,  Montausier,  Wardes,  Chevreuse, 
Novion,  Lamoignon,  Scuddry,  Pellisson,^  and  of  many 
other  personages   equally   learned    and  polite ;  nay,  if 

1  According  to  the  "  Keys,"  the  actor  referred  to  was  Baron  (see  page 
67,  note  2),  or  Champmesle  (1642-1701),  an  author  and  actor,  and  the 
husband  of  a  lady  known  to  posterity  as  a  friend  of  the  poet  Racine. 

2  The  Cardinal  d'Estrees  (1628-1714)  was  a  member  of  the  French 
Academy :  his  nephew,  the  Marshal,  was  considered  a  learned  and  polished 
gentleman.  There  were  several  magistrates  of  the  name  of  Seguier,  of 
whom  the  best  known  is  the  Chancellor  Seguier  (1588-1672).  The  Duke  de 
Montausier,  theformergovernor  of  the  Dauphin,  the  husband  of  Mademoiselle 
de  Rambouillet,  and  the  supposed  original  of  Moliere's  Misanthrope,  was 
still  alive  when  his  name  appeared,  but  died  about  a  year  later,  in  1690. 
The  Duke  de  Chevreuse,  afterwards  Duke  de  Luynes  (1620-1690X  an  author 
of  moral  and  religious  works,  was  a  friend  of  the  Port- Royalists.  The  first 
President  of  the  Parliameni,  Potier  de  Novion,  was  a  member  of  the 
Academy,  and  died  in  1693.  There  were  two  Lamoignons— the  first,  Pre- 
sident of  the  Parliament,  who  died  in  1677,  and  his  son,  Chretien  Frangois, 
president  i  ntortier,  the  friend  of  Boiieau  and  Racine,  who  lived  till  1709. 
Paul  Pellisson  (1624-1693),  the  friend  and  defender  of  Fouquet,  became 
perpetual  secretary  to  the  French  Academy,  of  which  be  wrote  a  history, 


334  OF  OPINIONS. 

they  dare  mention  the  great  names  of  Chartres,  Cond^, 
Conti,  Bourbon,  Maine,  and  Vendome,!  as  princes  who 
to  the  noblest  and  loftiest  acquirements  add  Greek 
atticism  and  Roman  urbanity,  those  persons  do  not 
hesitate  to  reply  that  such  examples  are  exceptional ; 
and  the  sound  arguments  brought  forward  are  powerless 
against  public  opinion.  However,  it  seems  that  people 
should  be  more  careful  in  giving  their  decisions,  and 
at  least  not  take  the  trouble  of  asserting  that  intellects 
producing  such  great  progress  in  science,  and  making 
persons  think  well,  judge  well,  speak  well,  and  write  well, 
could  not  acquire  polite  accomplishments. 

No  very  great  intelligence  is  necessary  to  have  pol- 
ished manners,  but  a  great  deal  is  needed  to  polish  the 
mind. 

(19.)  A  politician  says:  "Such  a  man  is  learned, 
and  therefore  not  fit  for  business  ;  I  would  not  trust 
him  to  take  an  inventory  of  my  wardrobe ; "  and  he 
is  quite  right.      Ossat,  Ximenes,  and  Richelieu  ^  were 

and  was  considered  the  ugliest  man  of  his  time.  M.  de  la  Bruyere  adds 
in  a  footnote,  that  in  speaking  of  Scudery,  he  meant  Mademoiselle  Scudery, 
to  distinguish  her  from  her  brother  Georges,  also  an  author ;  this  lady  wrote 
a  good  many  novels  then  in  vogue  (see  page  123,  note  i),  and  died  in  1701, 
more  than  ninety  years  old.  For  de  Harlay  see  page  237,  note  1  ;  for 
Bossuet  sec  page  47,  note  4  ;  and  for  Wardes  or  Vardes  see  page  197, 
note  2. 

1  The  Duke  de  Chartres  (1674-1723),  only  seventeen  years  old  when  this 
paragraph  appeared,  was  reputed  very  clever  for  his  age  ;  he  afterwards 
became  the  Regent  d'OrMans.  By  Conde,  either  the  great  Conde,  who  died 
in  1686,  or  his  son  Henri-Jules,  the  father  of  La  Bruyere's  pupil,  was  meant. 
For  Frangois-Louis,  Prince  de  Conti  (1634-1709),  see  page  273,  note  ;  his 
father,  Armand  de  Bourbon  (1629-1666),  had  first  been  an  admirer  and  then 
an  antagonist  of  Moliere.  For  Bourbon  and  VendSme  see  page  221,  note ; 
there;  was  also  a  celebrated  general,  the  Duke  de  Vendome  (1654-1712). 
TheDuke'de  Maine  (1670-1736),  the  eldest  of  the  children  of  Louis  XIV.  and 
Madame  de  Montespan,  was  twenty  years  old  when  his  name  appeared  in 
the  above  paragraph,  and  was  considered  a  prodigy  of  learning. 

2  The  Cardinal  d'Ossat  (1536-1604)  became  an  able  diplomatist  and 
statesman,  after  having  been  professor  of  rhetoric  and  philosophy  at  the 


OF   OPINIONS.  335 

learned,  but  were  they  men  of  ability  and  considered 
able  ministers  ?  *'  He  understands  Greek,"  continues 
our  statesman,  "he  is  a  pedant,^  a  philosopher,"  Ac- 
cording to  this  argument  an  Athenian  fruit-woman  who 
probably  spoke  Greek  was  a  philosopher,  and  the  Big- 
nons  and  Lamoignons  ^  are  mere  pedants,  and  nobody 
can  doubt  it,  for  they  know  Greek.  How  whimsical  and 
crack-brained  was  the  great,  the  wise,  and  judicious 
Antoninus  to  say :  "That  a  people  would  be  happy  whose 
ruler  was  philosophising,  or  who  should  be  governed  by 
a  philosopher  or  a  scribbler."  ^ 

Languages  are  but  the  keys  or  entrance-gates  of 
sciences,  and  nothing  more ;  he  that  despises  the  one 
slights  the  other.  It  matters  little  whether  languages 
are  ancient  or  modern,  dead  or  living,  but  whether  they 
are  barbarous  or  polite  and  whether  the  books  written 
in  them  are  good  or  bad.  Suppose  the  French  lan- 
guage should  one  day  meet  with  the  fate  of  th«  Greek 
and  Latin  tongues  ;  would  it  be  considered  pedantic  to 
read  Moli&re  or  La  Fontaine  some  ages  after  French 
had  ceased  to  be  a  living  language  ? 

(20,)  If  I  mention  Eurypilus,  you  say  he  is  a  wit. 

University  of  Paris ;  Cardinal  Ximenes(i437-i5i7)  published  several  works 
of  Aristotle,  founded  the  University  of  Alcala,  and  promoted  the  publishing 
of  a  polyglot  Bible  before  becoming  prime  minister  of  Charles  V.  of  Spain. 
Richelieu  (see  page  261,  note  2)  wrote  several  theological  works,  some 
tragedies,  and  founded  the  French  Academy. 

1  The  original  has  grintaud,  also  used  by  Trissotin  in  addressing  Vadius 
in  Moliere's  Fetnmes  Savantes,  act  iii.  scene  5:  "Allez,  petit  grimaud, 
barbouilleur  de  papier." 

2  JerOme  Bignon  (1589-1656)  was  a  celebrated  magistrate  ;  his  son  was  also 
a  scholar,  and  his  grandson,  the  Abbe  Jean-Frangois  (1662-1743),  was  a 
member  of  the  French  Academy.  For  the  Lamoignons  see  page  333, 
note  3. 

3  Plato  expresses  this  idea  in  the  seventh  book  of  his  "Republic,"  but  it 
was  often  in  the  mouth  of  the  Roman  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius  (121-180), 
called  Antoninus,  as  being  the  adopted  son  of  Antoninus  Pius. 


336  OF   OPINIONS. 

You  also  call  a  man  who  shapes  a  beam  a  carpenter, 
and  him  who  builds  a  wall  a  bricklayer.  Let  me  ask 
you  where  this  wit  has  his  workshop,  and  what  is  his 
sign  ?  Can  we  recognise  him  by  his  dress  ?  What  are 
his  tools  .''  Is  it  a  wedge,  a  hammer,  an  anvil  ?  Where 
does  he  rough-hew  or  shape  his  work,  and  where  is  it 
for  sale  ?  A  workman  is  proud  of  his  trade ;  is  Eury- 
pilus  proud  of  being  a  wit  ?  If  he  is  proud  of  it,  he 
is  a  coxcomb,  who  debases  the  natural  dignity  of  his 
intellect,  and  has  a  low  and  mechanical  mind,  which 
never  seriously  applies  itself  to  what  is  either  lofty  or 
intellectual ;  and  if  he  is  not  proud  of  anything,  and 
this  I  understand  to  be  his  real  character,  then  he  is 
a  sensible  and  intelligent  man.  Do  you  not  bestow 
the  title  of  "  wit "  on  every  pretender  to  learning  and 
on  every  wretched  poet  ?  Do  you  not  think  you  have 
some  intelligence,  and  if  so,  no  doubt  a  first-rate  and 
practical  one  ?  But  do  you  consider  yourself,  therefore, 
a  wit,  and  would  you  not  deem  it  an  insult  to  be  called 
so  ?  However,  I  give  you  leave  to  call  Eurypilus  so, 
and  this  ironically,  as  fools  do,  and  without  the  least 
discrimination,  or  as  ignorant  people  do  who  console 
themselves  by  irony  for  the  want  of  a  certain  culture 
which  they  perceive  in  others. 

(21.)  I  do  not  wish  to  hear  anything  more  about  pen, 
ink,  or  paper,  style,  printer,  or  press  !  Venture  no 
more  to  tell  me:  " Antisthenes,  you  are  a  first-rate 
author ;  continue  to  write.  Shall  we  never  see  a  folio 
volume  of  yours  ?  Speak  of  all  the  virtues  and  vices  in 
one  connected  and  methodical  treatise,  without  end," 
and  they  should  also  add,  "  without  any  sale."  I 
renounce  everything  that  either  was,  is,  or   will  be  a 


OF  OPINIONS.  337 

book !  Beryllus  swoons  when  he  sees  a  cat/  and  I  on 
beholding  a  book.  Am  I  better  fed  or  warmer  clothed  ; 
is  my  room  sheltered  against  northern  blasts ;  have  I 
so  much  as  a  feather-bed,^  after  having  had  my  works 
for  sale  for  more  than  twenty  years  ?  You  say  I  have 
a  great  name  and  a  first-rate  reputation  :  you  may  just 
as  well  tell  me  that  I  have  a  stock  of  air  I  cannot 
dispose  of.  Have  I  one  grain  of  that  metal  which  pro- 
cures all  things  ?  The  low  pettifogger  3  swells  his  bill, 
get  costs  paid  which  never  came  out  of  his  pocket,  and 
a  count  or  a  magistrate  becomes  his  son-in-law.  A 
man  in  a  red  or  filemot-coloured  dress  ^  is  changed  into 
a  secretary,  and  in  a  little  time  is  richer  than  his  i 
master,  who  remains  a  commoner  whilst  he  buys  a 
title  for  hard  cash.  B  .  .  .  ^  enriches  himself  by  some 
waxwork  show;  B  ...  by  selling  some  bottled  river- 
water.6  Another  quack  '^  arrives  with  one  trunk  from 
the  other  side  of  the  Pyrenees ;  it  is  scarcely  unpacked 
when  pensions  rain  on  him,  and  he  is  ready  to  return 
whence  he  came  with  plenty  of  mules  and  cartloads  full 
of  property.      Mercury  is  Mercury,^  and  nothing  else  ; 

1  Henri  III.  of  France  is  said  to  have  fainted  if  he  caught  sight  of  a 
cat,  and  some  commentators  state  a  certain  Abbe  de  Drubec  (see  page  112, 
note)  had  this  weakness.  Shakespeare,  in  the  Merchant  of  Venice  {act  iv. 
scene  i)  also  says,  "  Some  that  are  mad,  if  they  behold  a  cat." 

2  In  our  author's  time  there  were  only  feather  beds  or  straw  palliasses, 
but  no  flock  beds. 

3  The  original  \is.%  praticien.     See  page  153,  note  3. 

4  A  footman.  We  have  already  seen  in  the  chapter  "Of  the  Town" 
(page  137,  note  i)  how  many  footmen  became  financiers  of  the  highest 
order. 

*  This  stands  for  Antoine  Benoic,  the  royal  waxwork  maker,  who  had 
a  gallery  of  waxworks  called  cercle  royal. 

SB...  was  a  certain  Barbereau  who  sold  Seine  water  for  mineral  water, 
or  perhaps  Brimbeuf,  another  quack,  who  sold  a  specific  for  perpetual  youth. 

7  This  may  be  Caretti  (see  page  186,  note  4),  or  Domenico  Ammonio, 
another  Italian  quack. 

8  A  good   many  panders  at  the  court  of  Louis  XIV.   wee  politely 

Y 


338  OF   OPINIONS. 

and  as  gold  alone  cannot  pay  his  go-betweens  and  his 
intrigues,  he  obtains,  moreover,  favour  and  distinctions. 
To  confine  myself  to  lawful  gain,  you  pay  a  tiler  for  his 
tiles  and  a  workman  for  his  time  and  labour ;  but  do 
you  pay  an  author  for  his  thoughts  and  writings  ?  and  if 
his  thoughts  are  excellent,  do  you  pay  him  liberally  ? 
Does  he  furnish  his  house  or  become  ennobled  by  think- 
ing or  writing  well  ?  Men  must  be  clothed  and  shaved,^ 
have  houses  with  doors  that  shut  close  ;  but  where  is  the 
necessity  of  their  being  well  informed  ?  It  were  folly, 
simplicity,  stupidity,  continues  Antisthenes,  to  set  up  for 
an  author  or  a  philosopher !  Get  me,  if  possible,  some 
lucrative  post  which  may  make  my  life  easy,  enable  me 
to  lend  some  money  to  a  friend,  and  give  to  those  who 
cannot  return  it ;  and  then  I  can  write  for  recreation 
or  indolently,  just  as  Tityrus  2  whistles  or  plays  on  the 
flute  ;  I'll  have  that  or  nothing,  and  will  write  on  those 
conditions  •  I  will  yield  to  the  violence  of  those  who 
take  me  by  the  throat  and  exclaim,  "  You  shall  write  !  " 
I  have  the  title  of  my  new  book  ready  for  them  :  "  Of 
beauty,  goodness,  truth,  ideas,  of  first  principles,  by 
Antisthenes,  a  fishmonger." 

(22.)  If  thp  ambassadors  of  some  foreign  princes  ^ 
were  apes  who  had  learned  to  walk  on  their  hind-legs, 
and  to  make  themselves  understood  by  interpreters,  it 

called  Mercuries,  after  the  messenger  of  Jupiter ;  it  is  therefore  difficult 
to  say  whom  La  Bruyere  meant.  Some  say  he  spoke  of  Bontemps,  first 
zialet-de-chambre  of  the  king ;  others  imagine  he  wished  to  hit  the  Marquis 
lie  Lassay,  who  had  the  reputation  of  being  pander  to  the  Duke  de  Bourbon, 
the  former  pupil  of  our  author. 

1  In  La  Bruyere 's  time  people  wore  long  wigs  but  were  closely  shaved. 

2  Tityrus  is  a  shepherd,  who,  according  to  the  first  line  uttered  by  Meli- 
bcEus  in  Virgil's  first  "Eclogue,"  is  one  of  those  men  who  "lay  at  ease  under 
their  patrimonial  beech  trees." 

■*  This  is  an  allusion  to  the  Siamese  ambassadors,  who  came  to  Paris  in 
i636,  and  produced  a  great  sensation. 


OF  OPINIONS.  339 

could  not  surprise  us  more  than  the  correctness  of  thei 
answers,  and  the  common  sense  which  at  times  appears 
in  their  discourse.  Our  prepossession  in  favour  of  our 
native  country  and  our  national  pride  makes  us  forget 
that  common  sense  is  found  in  all  climates,  and  correct- 
ness of  thought  wherever  there  are  men.  We  should 
not  like  to  be  so  treated  by  those  we  call  barbarians  ; 
and  if  some  barbarity  still  exists  amongst  us,  it  is 
in  being  amazed  on  hearing  natives  of  other  countries 
reason  like  ourselves. 

All  strangers  are  not  barbarians,  nor  are  all  our 
countrymen  civilised  ;  in  like  manner  every  country  is 
not  savage,^  nor  every  town  polished.  There  exists  in 
Europe,  in  a  large  kingdom,  a  certain  place  in  a  mari- 
time province  where  the  villagers  are  gentle  and  affable, 
and,  on  the  contrary,  the  burgesses  and  the  magistrates 
coarse,  with  a  boorishness  inherited  from  their  ancestors. 2 

(23.)  In  spite  of  our  pure  language,  our  neatness 
in  dress,  our  cultivated  manners,  (our  good  laws  and 
fair  complexion,  we  are  considered  barbarians  by  some 
nations. 

(24.)  If  we  should  hear  it  reported  of  an  Eastern 
nation  that  they  habitually  drink  a  liquor  which  flies  to 
their  head,  drives  them  mad,  and  makes  them  very  sick, 
we  should  say  they  are  barbarians. 

(25.)  This  prelate  seldom  comes  to  court,  lives  re- 
tired, and  is  never  seen  in  the  company  of  ladies  :  he 


1  The  original  has  agreste,  taken  with  the  meaning  it  sometimes  has  in 
Latin.    La  Brayere  says  in  a  note  :  "This  wordHs  used*here  metaphorically." 

2  Our  author  was  probably  for  a  month  either  at  Rouen  or  Caen  as 
trisorier-giniral  des  finances,  an  office  which  he  bought  in  1673,  and, 
whilst  there,  might  have  had  a  quarrel  with  some  of  his  colleagues.  This 
is  the  more  likely  as  in  the  first  three  editions  of  the  "Characters"  the 
magistrates  alone  were  named. 


34°  OF   OPINIONS. 

neither  plays  grand  nor  little  prvnero,^  is  not  present  at 
feasts  or  spectacles,  is  not  a  party  man,  and  does  not 
intrigue ;  he  is  always  in  his  diocese,  where  he  resides, 
devotes  himself  to  instructing  his  people  by  preaching 
and  edifying  them  by  his  example  ;  spends  his  wealth 
in  charity,  and  wastes  away  through  doing  penance ;  he 
is  strict  in  the  observance  of  his  duties,  but  his  zeal  and 
piety  are  like  those  of  the  apostles.  Times  are  changed, 
and  in  the  present  reign  he  is  threatened  with  a  higher 
clerical  dignity.^ 

(26.)  Persons  of  a  certain  position,  and  members  of 
a  profession  of  great  dignity,  to  say  no  more,^  should 
understand  that  they  are  not  to  gamble,  sing,  and  be  as 
jocular  as  other  men,  so  that  the  world  may  talk  about 
them  ;  if  they  see  them  so  pleasant  and  agreeable,  it  will 
not  be  believed  that  they  are  elsewhere  staid  and  severe. 
May  we  venture  to  hint  that  by  acting  in  such  an  un- 
dignified manner  they  offend  against  those  polished  man- 
ners upon  which  they  pride  themselves,  and  which,  on 
the  contrary,  modify  outward  behaviour  and  make  it  suit 
any  condition  of  life,  cause  them  to  avoid  strong  con- 
trasts, and  never  show  the  same  man  in  these  various 
shapes  as  a  compound  of  eccentricity  and  extravagance. 

(27.)  At  a  first  and  single  glance  we  ought  not  to 
judge  of  men  as  of  a  picture  or  statue  ;  there  is  an  inner 


1  A  game  played  with  four  cards,  formerly  in  use  ;  it  was  primero  when 
the  hands  were  shown,  and  the  four  cards  were  of  different  colours  ;  grand 
primero  when  more  than  thirty  points  were  made.  In  Shakespeare's  King 
Henry  VIII.  (act  v.  scene  i),  Gardiner  tells  Sir  Thomas  Lovell  that  he 
left  the  king  "at  primero  with  the  Duke  of  Suffolk." 

2  This  is  supposed  to  have  been  a  portrait  of  M.  de  Noailles.  who  was 
Bishop  of  Chalons  when  La  Bruyere  wrote  this  paragraph,  but  who  in  1695 
became  Ai  chbishop  of  Paris  and  a  Cardinal.  The  number  of  bishops  residing 
in  their  dioceses  was  very  small  at  the  end  of  the  seventeenth  century. 

3  An  allusion  to  some  members  of  the  clergy  and  legal  profession  who 
frequented  fashionable  society. 


OF   OPINIONS,  341 

man,  and  a  heart  to  be  searched  ;  a  veil  of  modesty 
covers  merit,  and  a  mask  of  hypocrisy  covers  wicked- 
ness. Few  there  are  whose  discernment  authorises  them 
to  decide ;  it  is  but  gradually,  and  even  then,  perhaps, 
compelled  by  time  and  circumstances,  that  perfect  virtue 
or  absolute  vice  show  themselves  in  their  true  colours. 

(28.)  A  Fragment,  ,  ,  .  "  He  said  that  the  intelli- 
gence of  this  fair  lady  was  like  a  diamond  in  a  hand- 
some setting,"  and,  continuing  to  speak  of  her,  he  added: 
"  Her  common  sense  and  agreeable  manners  charm  the 
eyes  and  hearts  of  all  who  converse  with  her,  so  that  they 
do  not  know  whether  to  love  or  to  admire  her  most ;  she 
can  be  a  perfect  friend,  or  produce  such  an  impression 
that  her  admirers  feel  inclined  to  transgress  the  bounds 
of  friendship.  Too  young  and  healthy-looking  not  to 
please,  but  too  modest  to  affect  it,  she  esteems  men  only 
for  their  merit,  and  believes  she  has  only  friends ;  her 
vivacity  and  sentiment  surprise  and  interest  us,  and 
though  she  knows  perfectly  the  delicacies  and  niceties 
of  conversation,  she  sometimes  suddenly  makes  some 
happy  observations,  which  give  a  great  deal  of  pleasure 
and  need  not  be  answered.  She  speaks  to  you  like  one 
who  is  not  learned,  who  is  not  certain  of  anything,  and 
wants  to  be  informed  ;  and  she  listens  to  you  as  a  person 
who  knows  a  great  deal,  highly  values  what  you  say, 
and  on  whom  nothing  of  what  you  say  is  lost.  Far 
from  pretending  to  be  witty  by  contradicting  you,  and 
by  imitating  Elvira,  who  had  rather  be  thought  sprightly 
than  a  woman  of  sense  and  sound  judgment,  she  adopts 
your  thoughts,  thinks  they  are  her  own,  enlarges  on 
them,  and  embellishes  them ;  and  makes  you  pleased 
you  have  thought  so  correctly  and  expressed  yourself 
better  than  you  believed  you  did.     She  shows  her  con- 


342  OF    OPINIONS. 

tempt  for  vanity  in  her  conversation  and  in  her  writings, 
and  never  employs  witticisms  instead  of  arguments,  for 
she  is  aware  that  true  eloquence  is  always  unaffected. 
If  it  is  to  serve  any  one  and  to  induce  you  to  do  the 
same,  Artdnice  leaves  to  Elvira  all  pretty  speeches  and 
literary  phraseology,  and  only  tries  to  convince  you  by 
her  sincerity,  ardour,  and  earnestness.  What  she  likes 
above  everything  is  reading,  as  well  as  conversing  with 
persons  of  merit  and  reputation,  and  this  not  so  much 
to  be  known  to  them,  as  to  know  them.  We  may  already 
commend  her  for  all  the  wisdom  she  will  have  one  day, 
and  for  all  the  merit  she  will  have  in  time  to  come ;  her 
behaviour  is  without  reproach ;  she  has  the  best  in- 
tentions, and  principles  which  cannot  be  shaken,  and 
are  very  useful  to  those  who,  like  her,  are  exposed  to 
be  courted  and  flattered.  She  rather  likes  to  be  alone, 
without,  however,  altogether  shunning  society,  and  in- 
deed without  even  being  inclined  to  retirement,  so  that 
perhaps  she  wants  nothing  but  opportunities,  or,  as  some 
would  call  it,  a  large  stage  for  the  display  of  all  her 
qualities.^ 

(29.)  The  more  natural  a  handsome  woman  is,  the 
more  amiable  she  appears  ;  she  loses  nothing  by  being 
not  in  full  dress,  and  without  any  other  ornaments  than 
her  beauty  and  her  youth.  An  artless  charm  beams  on 
her  countenance  and  animates  every  little  action,  so  that 
there  would  be  less  danger  in  seeing  her  adorned  in 
splendid  and  fashionable  apparel.     Thus  an  honest  man 

1  According  to  the  Abbe  de  Chaulieu,  Artenice  is  Catherine  Turgot,  the 
wife  of  Gilles  d'Aligres,  Seigneur  de  Boislandry,  who,  after  a  scandalous 
lawsuit,  separated  from  her  one  year  before  this  "Fragment"  appeared 
(1694).  She  was  then  only  twenty-one,  and  became,  it  is  said,  the  mistress  of 
de  Chaulieu  ;  afterwards  she  married  again  a  certain  M.  de  CheviUy,  a 
captain  of  the  royal  guards.  Her  friend,  Mademoiselle  de  la  Force,  is 
supposed  to  have  been  Elvira. 


OF   OPINIONS.  343 

is  respected  for  his  own  sake,  independent  of  any  out- 
Avard  deportment  by  which  he  endeavours  to  give  him- 
self a  graver  appearance  and  to  make  his  virtue  more 
apparent.  An  austere  look,  an  exaggerated  modesty, 
eccentricity  in  dress,  and  a  large  skull-cap,  add  nothing 
to  his  probity  nor  heighten  his  merit  ;  ^  they  conceal 
it,  and  perhaps  make  it  appear  less  pure  and  ingenuous 
than  it  is. 

Gravity  too  affected  becomes  comical ;  it  is  like  ex- 
tremities which  join  one  another,  and  of  which  the  centre 
is  dignity  ;  this  cannot  be  called  being  grave,  but  acting 
the  part  of  a  grave  man  ;  a  person  who  studies  to  assume 
a  serious  appearance  will  never  succeed.  Either  gravity 
is  natural,  or  there  is  no  such  thing,  and  it  is  easier  to 
descend  from  it  than  to  attain  it. 

(30.)  A  man  of  talent  and  of  good  repute,  if  he  is 
peevish  and  austere,  frightens  young  people  and  gives 
them  a  bad  opinion  of  virtue,  as  they  are  afraid  it  re- 
quires too  much  austerity,  and  is  too  tiresome.  If,  on 
the  contrary,  he  is  cheerful  and  easily  accessible,  his 
example  is  instructive  to  them,  for  it  teaches  them  that 
men  may  live  happy,  do  a  good  deal  of  work,  and  yet 
be  serious  without  giving  up  decent  diversions  ;  he  thus 
is  an  exemplar  they  can  follow. 

(31.)  We  should  not  judge  of  men  by  their  counte- 
nance J  but  it  may  serve  to  make  a  guess  at  their  cha- 
racter. 

(32.)  A  clever  look  in  men  is  the  same  as  regularity 
of  features  among  women  ;  it  is  a  kind  of  beauty  which 
the  vainest  endeavour  to  acquire. 

(33.)  When  a  man  is  known  to  have  merit  and  intelli- 

1  An  allusion  to  the  President  de  Harlay.     See  page  237,  note  i. 


344  OF   OPINIONS. 

gence,  he  is  never  ugly,  however  plain  he  may  be  ;  or  if 
even  he  is  ugly,  it  leaves  no  bad  impression,^ 

(34.)  A  good  deal  of  art  is  needed  to  return  to 
nature ;  a  good  deal  of  time,  practice,  attention,  and 
labour  to  dance  with  the  same  freedom  and  ease  we 
walk  with  ;  to  sing  as  we  speak ;  to  throw  as  much 
vivacity,  passion,  and  persuasion  in  a  studied  speech 
to  be  publicly  delivered  as  in  one  which  we  sometimes 
naturally  use,  without  any  preparation,  and  in  familiar 
conversation. 

(35,)  They  who  without  sufficient  knowledge  have  a 
bad  opinion  of  us,  do  not  wrong  us  ;  they  do  not  attack 
us,  but  a  phantom  of  their  own  imagination. 

(36.)  Some  trifling  regulations  have  to  be  followed  in 
certain  places,  some  duties  have  to  be  fulfilled  at  certain 
times,  and  some  decorum  has  to  be  observed  by  certain 
persons,  which  could  not  be  divined  by  the  most  in- 
telligent people,  and  which  custom  teaches  without  any 
trouble  :  we  should,  therefore,  not  condemn  men  who 
omit  these  things,  as  they  have  not  been  taught  them, 
neither  should  we  decide  their  characters  by  the  shape  of 
their  nails  or  the  curl  of  their  hair  ;  if  we  do  form  such  a 
judgment  we  shall  soon  find  out  our  error, 

(37.)  I  doubt  whether  it  be  lawful  to  judge  of  some 
men  by  a  single  fault,  or  if  extreme  necessity,  a  violent 
passion,  or  a  sudden  impulse  prove  anything, 

(38.)  If  we  wish  to  know  the  truth  about  certain 
aff"airs  or  certain  persons,  we  should  believe  the  very 
opposite  of  the  reports  circulated  about  them. 

(39.)  Unless  we  are  very  firm  and  pay  continual 
attention  to  what  we  utter,  we  are  liable  to  say  "  yes  " 

^  This  paragraph  and  the  preceding  one  seem  to  refer  to  Pcllisson.     See 
page  333,  note  2. 


OF   OPINIONS.  345 

and  "  no  "  about  the  same  thing  or  person  in  an  hour's 
time,  induced  to  do  this  merely  by  a  sociable  and  friendly 
disposition,  which  naturally  leads  a  person  not  to  con- 
tradict men  who  hold  different  opinions. 

(40.)  A  partial  man  is  exposed  to  frequent  mortifica- 
tions ;  for  it  is  as  impossible  for  his  favourites  always 
to  be  happy  or  wise  as  for  those  who  are  out  of  his 
favour  always  to  be  at  fault  or  unfortunate  ;  and,  there- 
fore, he  often  is  put  out  of  countenance  either  through 
the  failure  of  his  friends,  or  some  glorious  deed  done  by 
those  whom  he  dislikes. 

(41.)  A  man  liable  to  be  prejudiced  who  ventures  to 
accept  an  ecclesiastical  or  civil  dignity  is  like  a  blind 
man  wishing  to  be  an  artist,  a  dumb  man  who  would  be 
an  orator,  or  a  deaf  man  desiring  to  judge  a  symphony; 
these  are  but  faint  comparisons  imperfectly  expressing 
the  wretchedness  of  prejudice.  Besides,  prejudice  is 
a  desperate  and  incurable  disease,  contaminating  all 
who  approach  the  patient,  so  that  his  equals,  inferiors, 
relatives,  friends,  and  even  the  doctors  abandon  him  ;  it 
is  past  their  skill  to  work  any  cure  if  they  cannot  make 
him  confess  what  is  his  disease,  and  acknowledge  that 
the  remedies  to  heal  it  are  to  listen,  to  doubt,  to  inquire, 
and  to  examine.  Flatterers,  rogues,  and  slanderers, 
those  who  never  open  their  mouths  but  to  lie  or  to 
advance  their  own  interests,  are  the  quacks  in  whom  he 
trusts,  and  who  make  him  swallow  all  they  please  ;  they 
thus  poison  and  kill  him. 

(42.)  Descartes'  rule  never  to  decide  on  the  slightest 
truth  before  it  is  clearly  and  distinctly  understood  is 
sufficiently  grand  and  correct  to  extend  to  the  judgment 
we  form  of  persons. 

(43.)  Some  men  have  a  bad  opinion  of  our  Intel- 


346  OF   OPINIONS. 

lect,  morals,  and  manners ;  but  we  are  well  revenged 
when  we  see  the  worthless  and  base  character  of  their 
favourites. 

On  this  principle  a  man  of  merit  is  neglected  and  a 
blockhead  admired. 

(44.)  A  blockhead  is  a  man  without  enough  intelli- 
gence to  be  a  coxcomb. 

(45.)  A  blockhead  thinks  a  coxcomb  a  man  of  merit. 

(46.)  An  impertinent  man  is  an  egregious  coxcomb  ; 
a  coxcomb  wearies,  bores,  disgusts,  and  repels  you ;  an 
impertinent  man  repels,  embitters,  irritates,  and  offends ; 
he  begins  where  the  other  ends. 

A  coxcomb  is  somewhat  of  an  impertinent  man  and 
of  a  blockhead,  and  is  a  medley  of  both. 

(47.)  Vices  arise  from  a  depraved  heart ;  faults  from 
some  defect  in  our  constitution ;  ridicule  from  want  of 
sense. 

A  ridiculous  man  is  one  who,  whilst  he  is  so,  has  the 
appearance  of  a  blockhead. 

A  blockhead  is  always  ridiculous,  for  that  is  his 
character ;  an  intelligent  man  may  sometimes  be  ridi- 
culous, but  will  not  be  so  long. 

An  error  in  conduct  makes  a  wise  man  ridiculous. 

Foolishness  is  a  criterion  of  a  blockhead,  vanity  of 
a  coxcomb,  and  impertinence  of  an  impertinent  man  ; 
ridicule  seems  sometimes  to  dwell  in  those  who  are 
really  ridiculous,  and  sometimes  in  the  imagination  of 
those  who  believe  they  perceive  ridicule  where  it  neither 
is  nor  can  be. 

(48.)  Coarseness,  clownishness,  and  brutality  may  be 
the  vices  of  an  intelligent  man. 

(49.)  A  stupid  man  is  a  silent  blockhead,  and  is  more 
bearable  than  a  talkative  blockhead. 


OF  OPINIONS.  347 

(50.)  What  is  often  a  slip  of  the  tongue  or  a  jest  from 
a  man  of  sense  is  a  blunder  when  said  by  a  block- 
head. 

(51.)  If  a  coxcomb  would  be  afraid  of  saying  some- 
thing not  exactly  right  he  would  no  longer  be  a  coxcomb. 

(52,)  One  proof  of  a  commonplace  intellect  is  to  be 
always  relating  stories. 

(53.)  A  blockhead  does  not  know  what  to  do  with 
himself;  a  coxcomb  is  free,  easy,  and  confident  in  his 
manners  ;  an  impertinent  man  becomes  impudent ;  and 
merit  is  always  modest. 

(54.)  A  conceited  man  is  one  in  whom  a  knowledge 
of  certain  details,  dignified  by  the  name  of  business, 
is  added  to  a  very  middling  intellect. 

One  grain  of  sense  and  one  ounce  ^  of  business  more 
than  there  are  in  a  conceited  man,  make  the  man  of 
importance. 

While  people  only  laugh  at  a  man  of  importance  he 
has  no  other  name ;  but  when  they  begin  to  complain 
of  him  he  may  be  called  arrogant. 

(55.)  A  gentleman  is  between  a  clever  man  and  an 
honest  man,  though  not  as  distant  from  the  one  as  from 
the  other.  2 

The  difference  between  a  gentleman  and  a  clever 
man  diminishes  each  day,  and  will  soon  disappear  alto- 
gether. 

A  clever  man  does  not  blaze  forth  his  passions, 
understands  his  own  interests,  sacrifices  many  things  to 
them,  has  acquired  some  wealth,  and  knows  how  to 
keep  it 

1  A  grain  is  the  576th  part  of  an  ounce,  which  is  the  i6th  part  of  a  pound. 

'^  The  original  has  honnete  honttne  (see  page  43,  note  2)  for  "  gentleman," 
funnme  de  bien  for  "  honest  man  "  (see  page  49,  note  4),  and  habile  homme 
lot  "clever  man." 


348  OF   OPINIONS. 

A  gentleman  is  not  a  highwayman,  commits  no  mur- 
ders, and,  in  one  word,  has  no  flagrant  vices. 

It  is  very  well  known  that  an  honest  man  is  a  gen- 
tleman ;  but  it  is  comical  to  think  that  every  gentle- 
man is  not  an  honest  man. 

An  honest  man  is  neither  a  saint  nor  a  pretender 
in  religion,  but  has  only  confined  himself  to  being  vir- 
tuous. 

(56.)  Genius,  taste,  intelligence,  good  sense,  are  all 
different,  but  not  incompatible. 

Between  good  sense  and  good  taste  there  is  as  much 
difference  as  between  cause  and  effect. 

Intelligence  is  to  genius  as  the  whole  is  in  propor- 
tion to  its  part. 

(57.)  Shall  I  call  a  man  sensible  who  only  practises 
one  art,  or  even  a  certain  science,  in  which  I  allow  him 
to  be  perfect,  but  beyond  that  displays  neither  judgment, 
memory,  animation,  morals,  nor  manners ;  does  not 
understand  me  ;  thinks  not,  and  expresses  himself  badly ; 
a  musician,  for  example,  who,  after  he  has  enraptured 
me  with  his  harmony,  seems  to  be  shut  up  with  his 
lute  in  the  same  case,  and  when  he  is  without  his  instru- 
ment is  like  a  machine  taken  to  pieces,  in  which  there  is 
something  wanting  and  from  which  nothing  more  is  to 
be  expected  ? 

Again,  what  shall  I  say  of  a  certain  talent  for  playing 
various  games,  and  who  can  define  it  to  me  ?  Is  there 
no  need  of  foresight,  shrewdness,  or  skill  in  playing 
ombre  ^  or  chess .''  And  if  there  is,  how  does  it  happen 
that  we  see  men  of  hardly  any  intellect  excel  in  these 
games,  and  others  of  great  talent  scarcely  show  mode- 

1  For  "  ombre  "  see  page  172,  note  5. 


OF   OPINIONS.  349 

rate  ability,  and  get  confused  and  bewildered  when  they 
have  to  move  a  pawn  or  play  a  card  ? 

There  is  something  in  this  world,  which,  if  possible, 
is  still  more  difficult  to  understand.  Some  person  seems 
dull,  heavy,  and  stupefied ;  he  knows  neither  how  to 
speak,  nor  to  relate  what  he  has  just  seen  ;  but,  if  he  puts 
pen  to  paper,  he  can  tell  a  tale  better  than  any  man  ;  he 
makes  animals,  stones,  and  trees  talk,  and  everything 
which  does  not  speak ;  his  works  are  light,  elegant, 
natural,  and  full  of  delicacy.  ^ 

Another  is  simple,  timorous,  and  tiresome  in  conver- 
sation ;  he  mistakes  one  word  for  another,  and  judges 
of  the  excellence  of  his  work  merely  by  the  money  it 
brings  him;  he  cannot  read  this  work  aloud,  nor  decipher 
his  own  handwriting.  But  let  him  compose,  and  he  is 
not  inferior  to  Augustus,  Pompey,  Nicomedes,  and  Hera- 
clius  ;  he  is  a  king,  and  a  great  king,  a  politician  and 
a  philosopher ;  he  undertakes  to  make  heroes  speak 
and  act ;  he  depicts  the  Romans,  and  in  his  verse  they 
are  greater,  and  more  like  Romans,  than  in  their  own 
history.2 

Should  you  like  to  have  an  outline  of  another  prodigy  ? 
Imagine  a  man,  easy,  gentle,  affable,  yielding,  and  then 
all  of  a  sudden  violent,  enraged,  furious,  and  capricious ; 
represent  to  yourself  a  man  simple,  artless,  credulous, 
sportive,  and  flighty,  a  grey-haired  child  ;  but  let  him 
recollect  himself,  or  rather  give  himself  up  to  the  genius 
dwelling  within  him,  and  perhaps  quite  independent 
of  him  and  without  his  knowledge,  he  will  display 
rapture,    lofty    thoughts,    splendid    imagery,    and   pure 

1  A  portrait  of  La  Fontaine  (see  page  335,  §  19),  who  was  still  alive  when 
this  paragraph  appeared  (1691). 

2  This  is  a  sketch  of  Pierre  Corneille  (see  page  9,  note  i,  and  page  18. 
note  i),  and  Au^tstus,  Po?nJ>ey,  Nicomedes,  and  Heracliiis  are  the  names 
of  some  of  his  tragedies. 


35°  OF   OPINIONS. 

latinity.  You  may  well  ask  if  I  speak  of  one  and  the 
same  man  ?  Yes,  of  Theodas/  and  of  no  one  else.  He 
shrieks,  is  quite  agitated,  rolls  on  the  ground,  rises, 
shouts,  and  roars  ;  and  yet  amidst  this  whirlwind  of  words 
shines  forth  a  brilliant  effulgence  which  delights  us.  To 
speak  plainly,  he  talks  like  a  fool  and  thinks  like  a  wise 
man  ;  he  utters  truth  in  a  ridiculous  way,  and  sensible 
and  reasonable  sayings  in  a  foolish  manner ;  people  are 
surprised  to  hear  common  sense  arise  and  bud  amidst 
so  much  buffoonery,  so  many  grimaces  and  contortions. 
I  may  say  also  that  he  speaks  and  acts  better  than  he 
understa.nds  ;  he  has  within  him,  as  it  were,  two  souls, 
which  are  unconnected  and  do  not  depend  on  one  another, 
but  act  each  in  their  turn  and  have  quite  distinct 
functions.  This  astonishing  picture  would  want  another 
touch  should  I  omit  to  state  that  he  is  anxiously  crav- 
ing for  praise,  has  never  enough  of  it,  and  is  ready  to 
fly  at  any  of  his  critics,  but  in  reality  is  docile  enough 
to  profit  by  their  censure.  I  begin  to  imagine  I  have 
drawn  the  portraits  of  two  wholly  different  persons  ;  and 
yet  to  find  a  third  in  Theodas  is  not  quite  impossible,  for 
he  is  kind-hearted,  agreeable,  and  has  excellent  qualities. 

Next  to  sound  judgment,  diamonds  and  pearls  are 
the  rarest  things  to  be  met  with. 

(58.)  One  man  is  well  known  for  his  abilities,  and 
is  honoured  and  cherished  wherever  he  goes,  but  he  is 
slighted  by  his  household  and  his  own  family,  whom  he 
cannot  induce  to   esteem   him  ;   another  man,   on  the 


1  Theodas  is  Santeul  (1630-1697),  one  of  the  most  elegant  of  the  modern 
Latin  poets,  whose  character,  immediately  recognised  by  all  his  contempo- 
raries, seems  to  have  been  the  compound  of  folly  and  sense  La  Bruyere  made 
it  out  to  be ;  he  is  said  to  have  died  in  consequence  of  having  drunk  a 
glass  of  wine  and  snuff  given  to  him  by  the  Duke  de  Bourbon,  the  father 
of  our  author's  pupil. 


OF   OPINIONS.  351 

contrary,  is  a  prophet  in  his  own  country,  has  a  great 
reputation  among  his  friends,  which  does,  however,  not 
extend  beyond  his  house,  and  prides  himself  on  the. rare 
and  singular  merit  his  family — whose  idol  he  is — believe 
he  is  possessed  of,  but  which  he  leaves  at  home  every 
time  he  goes  out,  and  takes  nowhere  with  him.i 

(59.)  Every  one  attacks  a  man  whose  reputation  is 
rising;  the  very  persons  he  thinks  his  friends  hardly 
pardon  his  growing  merit,  or  that  early  popularity  which 
seems  to  give  him  a  share  of  the  renown  they  already 
enjoy  ;  they  hold  out  as  long  as  they  can,  until  the 
king  declares  himself  in  his  favour  and  rewards  him  ; 
then  they  immediately  gather  in  crowds  round  him,  and 
only  from  that  day  he  ranks  as  a  man  of  merit. 

.  (60.)  We  often  pretend  to  praise  immoderately  some 
men  who  hardly  deserve  it,  and  to  raise  them,  if  it 
were  possible,  on  a  level  with  those  who  are  really  emi- 
nent, either  because  we  are  tired  of  admiring  always 
the  same  persons,  or  because  their  fame,  being  divided, 
is  less  offensive  to  behold,  and  seems  to  us  less  brilliant 
and  easier  to  be  borne. 

(61.)  We  see  some  men  carried  along  by  the  pro- 
pitious gale  of  favour,  and,  in  one  moment,  they  lose 
sight  of  land,  and  continue  their  course ;  everything 
smiles  on  them,  and  they  are  successful  in  whatever  they 
undertake ;  their  deeds  and  their  works  are  extolled  and 
well  rewarded,  and  when  they  appear  they  are  caressed 
and  congratulated.  A  firm  rock  stands  on  the  coast, 
and  breakers  dash  against  its  base ;  all  the  blasts  of 
power,  riches,  violence,  flattery,  authority,  and  favour 
cannot  shake  it.  The  public  is  the  rock  against  which 
these  men  are  dashed  to  pieces. 

1  These  two  men  are  said  to  have  been  the  brothers  Le  Peletier.  See 
page  54,  note  1. 


352  OF   OPINIONS. 

(62.)  It  is  usual,  and,  as  it  were,  natural  to  judge  of 
other  men's  labour  only  by  the  affinity  it  bears  to  our 
own..  Thus  a  poet,  filled  with  grand  and  sublime  ideas, 
does  not  greatly  prize  an  orator's  speech,  which  is  often 
merely  about  simple  facts  ;  and  a  man  who  writes  the 
history  of  his  native  land  cannot  understand  how  any 
person  of  sense  can  spend  his  whole  life  in  contriving 
fictions  or  hunting  after  a  rhyme  ;  and  a  divine,  immersed 
in  the  study  of  the  first  four  centuries,'  thinks  all  other 
learning  and  science  sad,  idle,  and  useless,  whilst  he 
perhaps  is  as  much  despised  by  a  mathematician. 

(63.)  A  man  may  have  intelligence  enough  to  excel 
in  a  particular  thing  and  lecture  on  it,  and  yet  not  have 
sense  enough  to  know  he  ought  to  be  silent  on  some 
other  subject  of  which  he  has  but  a  slight  knowledge  ; 
if  such  an  illustrious  man  ventures  beyond  the  bounds 
of  his  capacity,  he  loses  his  way,  and  talks  like  a  fool. 

(64.)  Whether  Herillus  talks,  declaims,  or  writes,  he 
is  continually  quoting ;  he  brings  in  the  prince  of  philo- 
sophers 2  to  tell  you  that  wine  will  make  you  intoxicated, 
and  the  Roman  orator  ^  to  say  that  water  qualifies  it. 
When  he  discourses  of  morals,  it  is  not  he,  but  the  divine 
Plato  who  assures  us  that  virtue  is  amiable,  vice  odious, 
and  that  both  will  become  habitual.  The  most  common 
and  well-known  things,  which  he  himself  might  have 
thought  out,  he  attributes'  to  the  ancients,  the  Romans 
and  Greeks  ;  it  is  not  to  give  more  authority  to  what  he 
says,  nor  perhaps  to  get  more  credit  for  learning,  but 
merely  for  the  sake  of  employing  quotations. 

(65.)  We  often  pretend  that  a  witticism  is  our  own, 

1  Bachelors  in  theology  and  the  canon  law  were  the  only  graduates  com- 
pelled to  study  the  history  of  the  first  four  centuries  of  the  Christian  era. 

2  Aristotle.  3  Cicero. 


OF  OPINIONS.  353 

and  by  doing  this  we  run  the  risk  of  destroying  its 
effect ;  it  falls  flat,  and  witty  people,  or  those  who  think 
themselves  so,  receive  it  coldly,  because  they  ought  to 
have  said  it,  and  did  not.  On  the  contrary,  if  told  as 
another's,  it  would  meet  with  a  better  reception;  it  is 
but  a  jest  which  no  one  is  obliged  to  know  ;  it  is  related 
in  a  more  insinuating  manner,  and  causes  less  jealousy ; 
it  offends  nobody  ;  if  it  is  amusing  it  is  laughed  at,  and 
if  excellent  is  admired, 

(66.)  Socrates  was  said  to  be  insane,  to  be  "an  in- 
telligent madman  ; "  but  those  Greeks  who  gave  such  a 
name  to  so  wise  a  man  passed  for  madmen  themselves. 
They  exclaimed,  "  What  odd  portraits  does  this  philo- 
sopher present  us  with  !  What  strange  and  peculiar  man- 
ners does  he  desciibe  !  In  what  dreams  did  he  discover 
and  collect  such  extraordinary  ideas  !  What  colours 
and  what  a  brush  has  he  !  They  are  only  idle  fancies  !  " 
They  were  mistaken — all  those  monsters  and  vices  were 
painted  from  life,  so  that  people  imagined  they  saw  them, 
and  were  terrified.  Socrates  was  far  from  a  cynic  ;  he 
did  not  indulge  in  personalities,  but  lashed  the  morals 
and  manners  which  were  bad.^ 

(67.)  A  man  who  has  acquired  wealth  by  his  know- 
ledge of  the  world  is  acquainted  with  a  philosopher,  and 
withhis  precepts,  morals,  and  conduct;  but  not  imagining 
that  mankind  can  have  any  other  goal  in  whatever  they 
do  than  the  one  he  marked  out  for  himself  during  his 
whole  lifetime,  he  says  in  his  heart,  "  I  pity  this  rigid 
critic ;  his  life  has  been  a  failure  ;  he  is  on  a  wrong  tack. 


'  La  Bruyfere  did  not  wish  to  give  a  sketch  of  Socrates,  as  he  himself 
admitted  in  one  of  his  letters  to  Menage.  It  is  supposed  he  meant  to  give 
a  portrait  of  himself ;  at  least  he  was  sometimes  called  "  an  intelligent  mad- 
man," 

Z 


354  OF   OPINIONS. 

and  has  lost  his  way ;  no  wind  will  ever  waft  him  to  a 
prosperous  harbour  of  preferment ;  "  and,  according  to 
his  own  principles,  he  is  right  in  his  arguments. 

Antisthius  says  :  "  I  pardon  those  I  have  praised  in 
my  works,  if  they  will  forget  me,  for  I  did  nothing  for 
them,  as  they  deserved  to  be  commended.  But  I  will 
not  so  easily  pardon  forgetfulness  in  those  whose  vices 
I  have  attacked,  without  touching  their  persons,  if  they 
owe  me  the  invaluable  boon  of  being  amended ;  but  as 
such  an  event  never  happens,  it  follows  that  neither  the 
one  nor  the  other  are  obliged  to  make  me  any  return." 

This  philosopher  continued  saying  :  "  People  may 
envy  my  writings  or  refuse  them  their  reward,  but  they 
are  unable  to  diminish  their  reputation  ;  and  if  they  did, 
what  should  hinder  me  from  scorning  their  opinions  "i  " 

(68.)  It  is  a  good  thing  to  be  a  philosopher,  but  it 
does  not  much  benefit  a  man  to  be  thought  one.  It 
will  be  considered  an  insult  to  call  any  one  a  philosopher 
till  the  general  voice  of  mankind  has  declared  it  other- 
wise, given  its  true  meaning  to  this  beautiful  word,  and 
granted  it  all  the  esteem  it  deserves. 

(69.)  There  is  a  philosophy  which  raises  us  above 
ambition  and  fortune,  and  not  only  makes  us  the  equals 
of  the  rich,  the  great,  and  the  powerful,  but  places 
us  above  them ;  makes  us  contemn  office  and  those 
who  appoint  to  it ;  exempts  us  from  wishing,  asking, 
praying,  soliciting,  and  begging  for  anything,  and  even 
restrains  our  emotion  and  our  excessive  exultation  when 
successful.  There  is  another  philosophy  which  inclines 
and  subjects  us  to  all  these  things  for  the  sake  of  our 
relatives  and  friends  ;   and  this  is  the  better  of  the  two. 

(70.)  It  will  shorten  and  rid  us  of  a  thousand  tedious 
discussions  to  take  it  for  granted  that  some  persons  are 


OF  OPINIONS.  355 

not  capable  of  talking  correctly,  and  to  condemn   all 
they  have  said,  do  say,  or  will  say. 

(71.)  We  only  approve  in  others  those  qualities  in 
which  we  imagine  they  resemble  us ;  thus,  to  esteem 
any  one  seems  to  make  him  an  equal  of  ourselves. 

(72.)  The  same  faults  which  are  dull  and  unbearable 
in  others  are  in  their  right  place  when  we  have  them ; 
they  do  not  weigh  us  down,  and  are  hardly  felt.  One 
man,  speaking  of  another,  draws  a  terrible  likeness  of 
him,  and  does  not  in  the  least  imagine  that  at  the  same 
time  he  is  painting  himself. 

If  we  could  see  the  faults  in  other  people,  and  could 
be  brought  to  acknowledge  that  we  possess  the  same 
faults,  we  would  more  readily  amend  them ;  it  is  when 
we  are  at  a  right  distance  from  them,  and  when  they 
appear  what  they  really  are,  that  we  dislike  them  as 
much  as  they  deserve. 

(73.)  A  wise  man's  behaviour  turns  on  two  pivots,  the 
past  and  the  future.  If  he  has  a  good  memory  and  a 
keen  foresight,  he  runs  no  danger  of  censuring  in  others 
what  perhaps  he  has  done  himself,  or  of  condemning  an 
action  which,  in  a  parallel  case,  and  in  like  circumstances, 
he  sees  it  will  be  impossible  for  him  to  avoid. 

(74.)  Neither  a  soldier,  a  politician,  nor  a  skilful 
gambler  ^  create  luck,  but  they  prepare  it,  allure  it,  and 
seem  almost  to  fix  it.  They  not  only  know  what  a  fool 
and  a  coward  ignore,  I  mean,  to  make  use  of  luck  when 
it  does  come,  but  by  their  precautions  and  measures  they 
know  how  to  take  advantage  of  a  lucky  chance,  or  of 
several  chances  together.      If  a  certain  deal  or  throw 

1  A  gambler  was  in  La  Bniyfere's  time  a  regular  profession,  perhaps  not 
considered  quite  as  respectable  as  any  other  of  the  learned  professions,  but 
still  decent  enough  to  entitle  its  professors  to  be  received  at  court  and  in 
verj'  good  society.  The  gambler  was  almost  as  much  admired  for  his  pluck 
and  dash  as  a  gentleman-jockey  is  at  present. 


356  OF   OPINIONS. 

succeeds,  they  gain  ;  if  another  happens,  they  also  win  ; 
and  often  profit  by  one  and  the  same  in  various  ways. 
These  sharp  men  may  be  commended  both  for  their 
good  fortune  and  prudent  conduct,  and  they  should  be 
rewarded  for  their  luck  as  other  men  are  for  their  virtue. 

(75.)  I  place  nobody  above  a  great  politician  but  a 
man  who  does  not  care  to  become  one,  and  who  is  more 
and  more  convinced  that  it  is  not  worth  troubling  himself 
about  what  is  going  on  in  the  world. 

(76.)  In  the  best  of  counsels  there  is  something  to 
displease  us  ;  they  are  not  our  own  thoughts ;  and, 
therefore,  presumption  and  caprice  at  first  cause  them 
to  be  rejected,  whilst  we  only  follow  them  through 
necessity  or  after  having  reflected. 

{77.)  This  favourite  has  been  wonderfully  fortunate 
during  his  whole  lifetime  ;  he  enjoyed  an  uninter- 
rupted good  fortune,  was  never  in  disgrace,  occupied 
the  highest  posts,  was  in  the  king's  confidence,  had  vast 
treasures,  perfect  health,  and  died  quietly.  But  what  an 
extraordinary  account  he  will  have  to  render  of  a  life 
spent  as  a  favourite,  of  advice  given,  of  advice  which 
was  not  tendered  or  not  listened  to,  of  good  deeds 
omitted,  and,  on  the  contrary,  of  evil  ones  committed, 
either  by  himself  or  his  instruments  ;  in  a  word,  of  all 
his  prosperity.! 

(78.)  When  we  are  dead  we  are  praised  by  those 
who  survive  us,  though  we  frequently  have  no  other 
merit  than  that  of  being  no  longer  alive ;  the  same 
commendations  serve  then  for  Cato  and  for  Piso,^ 

1  It  was  generally  believed  that  this  paragraph  refers  to  the  minister 
Le  Tellier  (1603-1685)  and  to  his  son  Louvois,  for  whom  see  pages  132  and 
242,  notes  I  and  2. 

2  Cato  of  Utica  (95-46  B.C.).  Lucius  Calpurnius  Piso,  the  father-in-law 
of  Julius  Caesar,  had  been  accused  by  Cicero  in  the  year  59  B.C.  of  extor- 
tions, and  of  plundering  Macedonia. 


OF  OPINIONS.  357 

"  There  is  a  report  that  Piso  is  dead ;  it  is  a  great 
loss ;  he  was  an  honest  man,  who  deserved  to  hve  longer  ; 
he  was  intelligent  and  agreeable,  resolute  and  courageous, 
to  be  depended  upon,  generous  and  faithful  ; "  add  : 
"provided  he  be  really  dead." 

(79.)  The  way  in  which  we  exclaim  about  certain 
persons  being  distinguished  for  their  good  faith,  disinter- 
estedness, and  honesty  is  not  so  much  to  their  praise  as 
to  the  disrepute  of  all  mankind. 

(80.)  A  certain  person  relieves  the  necessitous,  but 
neglects  his  own  family  and  leaves  his  son  a  beggar ; 
another  builds  a  new  house  though  he  has  not  paid  for  the 
lead  of  the  one  finished  ten  years  before  ;  a  third  makes 
presents  and  is  very  liberal,  but  ruins  his  creditors.  I 
would  fain  know  whether  pity,  liberality,  and  magnificence 
can  be  the  virtues  of  a  man  without  sense,  or  whether 
eccentricity  and  vanity  are  not  rather  the  causes  of  this 
want  of  sense.^ 

(81.)  If  we  wish  to  be  essentially  just  to  others,  we 
should  be  quick  and  not  dilatory ;  to  let  people  wait  is 
to  commit  an  injustice. 

Those  persons  do  well,  or  do  their  duty,  who  do 
what  they  ought.  A  man  who  allows  the  world  to 
speak  always  of  him  in  the  future  tense,  and  to  say  he 
will  do  well,  behaves  really  very  badly. 

(82.)  People  say  of  a  great  man  who  has  two  meals 
a  day,  and  spends  the  rest  of  his  time  in  digesting  what 
he  has  eaten,  that  he  starves  ;  all  that  they  mean  to 
express  by  this  is  that  he  is  not  rich,  or  that  his  affairs 
are  not  very  prosperous ;  the  remark  about  starving 
might  be  better  applied  to  his  creditors. 

(83.)  The  culture,  good  manners,  and  politeness  of 

.  1  See  also  the  chapter  "  Of  Mankindi"  pages  308  and  321,  §§  104  and  139. 


35^  OF   OPINIONS. 

persons  of  either  sex,  advanced  in  years,  give  me  a  good 
opinion  of  what  we  call  "  former  times."  ^ 

(84.)  Parents  are  over-confident  in  expecting  too  much 
from  the  good  education  of  their  children,  and  commit 
a  grievous  error  if  they  expect  nothing  from  it  and 
neglect  it. 

(85.)  Were  it  true,  as  several  persons  affirm,  that 
education  does  not  alter  the  heart  and  constitution  of 
man,  and  that  in  reality  the  changes  it  produces  trans- 
form nothing  and  are  merely  superficial,  yet  I  would 
still  maintain  that  it  is  beneficial  to  him. 

(86.)  He  who  speaks  little  has  this  advantage,  that 
he  is  presumed  to  have  some  intelligence,  and  if  he  really 
is  not  deficient  in  it,  it  is  presumed  to  be  first-rate. 

(87.)  To  think  only  of  ourselves  and  of  the  present 
time  is  a  source  of  error  in  politics. 

(88.)  Next  to  being  convicted  of  a  crime,  it  is  often 
the  greatest  misfortune  for  a  man  his  being  accused  of 
having  committed  one,  and  being  obliged  to  clear  him- 
self from  the  charge.  He  may  be  acquitted  in  a  court 
of  justice  and  yet  be  found  guilty  by  the  voice  of  the 
people.  2 

(89.)  One  man  faithfully  observes  certain  religious 
duties  and  discharges  them  carefully,  yet  he  is  neither 
commended  nor  censured,  he  is  not  so  much  as  thought 
of;  another,  after  ten  years'  utter  neglect  of  such  duties, 
attends  again  to  them  and  is  commended  and  extolled. 
Every  person  has  a  right  to  his  own  opinion  ;  I,  for  my 
part,  blame  the  second  man  for  having  so  long  neglected 

1  Our  author  had  already  praised  people  of  a  certain  age  in  his  chapter 
"  Of  the  Court,"  page  211,  §  74. 

2  An  allusion  to  Pieri  e-Louis  de  Reich,  Seigneur  de  Penautier,  receiver- 
general  of  the  clergy  of  France,  who  had  been  accused  of  having  poisoned 
his  father-in-law. 


OF  OPINIONS.  359 

those  duties,  and  think  his  reformation  fortunate  for 
himself. 

(90,)  A  flatterer  has  not  a  sufficiently  good  opinion 
of  himself  or  others. 

(91,)  Some  men  are  forgotten  in  the  distribution  of 
favours,  and  we  ask  what  can  be  the  reason  of  this  ;  if 
they  had  not  been  forgotten  we  should  have  raised  the 
question  why  they  had  received  them.  Whence  proceeds 
this  dissimilitude  ?  Is  it  from  the  character  of  these 
persons,  or  the  instability  of  our  opinions,  or  rather  from 
both? 

(92.)  We  often  hear  the  question  asked,  "Who 
shall  be  chancellor,  primate,^  pope  ?  "  People  go  even 
farther,  and,  according  to  their  own  wishes  or  caprice, 
often  promote  persons  more  aged  and  infirm  than  those 
who  at  present  fill  certain  posts  ;  and  as  there  is  no  reason 
why  any  post  should  kill  its  occupant,  but,  on  the  con- 
trary, often  makes  him  young  again,  and  reinvigorates 
his  body  and  soul,  it  is  not  unusual  for  an  official  per- 
sonage to  outlive  his  appointed  successor.^ 

(93,)  Disgrace  extinguishes  hatred  and  jealousy.  As 
soon  as  a  person  is  no  longer  a  favourite,  and  when 
we  do  not  envy  him  any  more,  we  admit  that  his  actions 
are  good,  and  we  can  pardon  in  him  any  merit  and  a 
good  many  virtues ;  he  might  even  be  a  hero,  and  not 
vex  us. 

Nothing  seems  right  that  a  man  does  who  has  fallen 
into  disgrace ;  his  virtues  and  merit  are  slighted,  misin- 
terpreted, or  called  vices.  If  he  is  courageous,  dreads 
neither   fire   nor   sword,  and  faces   the  enemy  with  as 

1  The  Archbishop  of  Lyons  bore  the  title  of  primat  des  Caules,  which  is 
in  the  original  French. 

2  See  page  192,  note. 


360  OF   OPINIONS. 

much  bravery  as  Bayard  and  Montrevel,!  he  is  called  a 
"  braggadocio,"  and  they  make  fun  of  him,  for  there  is 
nothing  of  the  true  hero  about  him. 

I  contradict  myself ;  I  own  it ;  do  not  blame  me,  but 
blame  those  men  whose  judgments  I  merely  give,  and 
who  are  the  very  same  persons,  though  they  differ  so 
much  and  are  so  variable  in  their  opinions. 

(94.)  We  need  not  wait  twenty  years  to  see  a  general 
alter  his  opinion  on  the  most  serious  things  as  well  as 
on  those  which  appear  most  certain  and  true,  I  shall 
not  venture  to  maintain  that  fire  in  its  own  nature,  and 
independent  of  our  sensations,  is  void  of  heat,^  that  is 
to  say,  nothing  like  what  we  feel  in  ourselves  on  approach- 
ing it,  lest  some  time  or  other  it  may  become  as  hot 
as  ever  it  was  thought  ;  nor  shall  I  advance  that  one 
straight  line  falling  on  another  makes  two  right  angles, 
or  two  angles  equal  to  two  right  angles,  for  fear  some- 
thing more  or  less  be  discovered,  and  my  proposition 
be  laughed  at ;  nor,  to  mention  something  else,  shall  I 
say,  with  the  whole  of  France,  that  Vauban  is  infallible, 
and  that  this  is  an  undoubted  fact,^  for  who  will  guarantee 
me  but  that  in  a  short  time  it  may  be  hinted  that  even 
in  sieges,  in  which  lies  his  peculiar  pre-eminence,  and 
of  which  he  is  considered  the  best  judge,  he  does  not 

1  Pierre  duTerrail,  Seigneurde  Bayard  (1475-1324),  a  great  military  com- 
mander, deservedly  received  the  name  of  the  "knight  without  fear  and 
without  reproach."  Our  author  states  in  a  footnote  that  the  Marquis  de 
Montrevel  was  commissioner-general  of  the  cavalry,  and  lieutenant-general. 
Seven  years  after  the  death  of  La  Bruyere,  he  became  Marshal  of  France. 
Saint-Simon  calls  him  "  a  very  brave  but  a  rather  stupid,  not  over-honest 
and  ignorant  man,"  who  died  of  fright  by  the  upsetting  of  a  salt-cellar. 

2  This  theory  was  maintained  by  Descartes. 

3  Vauban  (1633-1707),  the  great  French  military  engineer,  after  the  retak- 
ing of  Namur  by  William  III.  in  1695,  four  years  after  this  paragraph  saw 
the  light,  was  accused  of  having  committed  some  errors  in  the  erection  of  the 
fortifications  of  that  town,  but  he  proved  those  accusations  to  be  unfounded. 


OF   OPINIONS.  361 

make  some  blunders,  and  is  as  liable  to  mistakes  as 
Antiphilus  is  ?  ^ 

(95.)  If  you  believe  people  who  are  exasperated  against 
one  another,  and  swayed  by  passion,  a  scholar  is  a  mere 
sciolist,^  a  magistrate  a  boor  or  a  pettifogger,^  a  financier 
an  extortioner,  and  a  nobleman  an  upstart ;  but  it  is 
strange  these  scurrilous  names,  invented  by  anger  and 
hatred,  should  become  so  familiar  to  us,  and  that  con- 
tempt, though  cold  and  inert,  should  dare  to  employ 
them. 

(96.)  You  agitate  yourself,  and  give  yourself  a  good 
deal  of  trouble,  especially  when  the  enemy  begins  to 
fly,  and  the  victory  is  no  longer  doubtful,  or  when  a 
town  has  capitulated ;  in  a  fight  or  during  a  siege  you 
like  to  be  seen  everywhere  in  order  to  be  nowhere ;  to 
forestall  the  orders  of  the  general  for  fear  of  obeying 
them,  and  to  seek  opportunities  rather  than  to  wait  for 
them  or  receive  them.     Is  your  courage  a  mere  pretence.'' 

(97.)  Order  your  soldiers  to  keep  some  post  where 
they  may  be  killed,  and  where  nevertheless  they  are 
not  killed,  and  they  prove  they  love  both  honour  and 
life. 

(98.)  Can  we  imagine  that  men  who  are  so  fond  of 
life  should  love  anything  better,  and  that  glory,  which 
they  prefer  to  life,  is  often  no  more  than  an  opinion  of 
themselves,  entertained  by  a  thousand  people  whom  either 
they  do  not  know  or  do  not  esteem  ?  * 

(99.)  Some    persons    who   are   neither   soldiers    nor 

1  Antiphilus  is  Pope  Innocent  XI.  (1676-1689),  who  held  other  opinionsas 
a  cardinal  than  he  did  as  a  pope  ;  he  opposed  the  liberiies  of  the  Galilean 
Church. 

*  The  original  has  savantasse,  a.  word  always  used  with  a  bad  meaning. 

3  In  French  praii'den.     See  page  153,  note  3. 

■*  See  the  chapter  "  Of  Mankind,"  page  299,  |  76. 


362  OF   OPINIONS. 

courtiers  make  a  campaign  and  follow  the  court ;  they 
do  not  assist  in  besieging  a  town,  but  are  merely  spec- 
tators,^  and  are  soon  cured  of  their  curiosity  about  a 
fortified  place,  however  wonderful  ;  about  trenches ;  the 
effects  of  shells  and  cannon,  about  surprises,  and  the 
order  and  success  of  an  attack  of  which  they  catch  a 
mere  glimpse.  The  place  holds  out,  bad  weather  comes 
on,  fatigues  increase,  the  mud  has  to  be  waded  through, 
and  the  seasons  have  to  be  encountered  as  well  as  the 
enemy ;  the  lines  may  be  forced,  and  we  may  find  our- 
selves between  the  town  and  an  army,  and  reduced  to 
dire  extremities.  The  besiegers  lose  heart,  begin  to 
murmur,  and  ask  if  the  raising  of  the  siege  will  be  of 
such  great  consequence,  and  if  the  safety  of  the  State 
depends  on  one  citadel.  They  further  add  "  that  the 
heavens  themselves  declare  against  them;  and  that  it  is 
best  to  submit,  and  put  off  the  siege  until  another  season." 
They  no  longer  understand  the  firmness,  and,  if  they  may 
say  so,  the  obstinacy  of  the  general,  who  is  not  to  be 
overcome  by  obstacles,  but  is  stimulated  by  the  difficulty 
of  his  undertaking,  and  watches  by  night  and  exposes 
his  life  by  day  to  accomplish  his  design.  But  as  soon 
as  the  enemy  has  capitulated,  the  very  men  who  lost 
heart  boast  of  the  importance  of  the  conquest,  foretell 
the  consequences  it  will  have,  exaggerate  the  necessity 
there  was  in  undertaking  it,  as  well  as  the  danger  and 
shame  there  would  have  been  in  raising  it,  and  prove 
that  the  army  opposed  to  the  enemy  was  invincible.^ 


1  An  allusion  to  the  siege  of  Namur,  June  1692,  which  lasted  one  month, 
during  which  many  courtiers  and  magistrates  went  there  out  of  curiosity. 
Racine  and  Boileau  were  also  present  as  the  king's  historians.  The  above 
paragraph  appeared  the  same  year  the  siege  took  place. 

2  A  French  army  of  eighty  thousand  men  under  the  Marshal  de  Luxem- 


OF   OPINIONS.  363 

They  return  with  the  court,  and  as  they  pass  through 
the  towns  and  villages,  are  proud  to  be  looked  upon  by 
the  inhabitants,  who  are  all  at  their  windows,  as  the 
very  men  who  took  the  place ;  thus  they  triumph  all 
along  the  road  and  fancy  themselves  very  courageous. 
When  they  are  home  again  they  deafen  you  with  flanks, 
redans,  ravelins,  counter  breastworks,^  curtains,  and 
covert-ways;  give  you  an  account  of  the  spots  where 
curiosity  led  them,  and  where  it  was  pretty  dangerous, 
and  of  the  risks  they  ran  on  returning  of  being  killed  or 
made  prisoners ;  but  they  do  not  say  one  word  about 
the  mortal  terror  they  were  in, 

(100.)  It  is  no  great  disadvantage  for  a  speaker  to 
stop  short  in  the  middle  of  a  sermon  or  a  speech ;  it 
does  not  deprive  him  of  his  intelligence,  good  sense, 
imagination,  morals,  and  learning ;  it  robs  him  of  no- 
thing ;  but  it  is  very  surprising  that,  though  it  is  con- 
sidered more  or  less  disgraceful  and  ridiculous,  some  men 
will  expose  themselves  to  so  great  a  risk  by  tedious  and 
often  unprofitable  discourses. 

(10 1.)  Those  who  make  the  worst  use  of  their  time 
are  the  first  to  complain  of  its  brevity ;  as  they  waste  it 
in  dressing  themselves,  in  eating  and  sleeping,  in  foolish 
conversations,  in  making  up  their  minds  what  to  do,  and, 
generally,  in  doing  nothing  at  all,  they  want  some  more 
for  their  business  or  for  their  pleasures,  whilst  those  who 
make  the  best  use  of  it  have  some  to  spare. 

There  is  no  minister  of  State  so  busy  but  he  knows  he 

bourg  (see  page  19s,  note  2)  prevented  William  III.  from  coming  to  the  relief 
of  Namur. 

1  According  to  M.  G.  Servois's  preface  to  the  Lexique  of  La  Bruyfere, 
ravelin,  a  synonym  of  detni-lune,  and  fausse-braie,  a  counter  breastwork, 
are  antiquated  in  French.  However,  "ravelin"  and  "demi-lune"  are  still 
found  as  English  words  in  certain  dictionaries. 


364  OF   OPINIONS. 

loses  two  hours  every  day,  which  amounts  to  a  great 
deal  in  a  long  life ;  and  if  this  waste  is  still  greater 
among  other  conditions  of  men,  what  a  large  loss  is 
there  of  what  is  most  precious  in  this  world,  and  of 
which  every  one  complains  he  has  not  enough. 

(102.)  There  exist  some  of  God's  creatures  called  men, 
who  have  a  spiritual  soul,  and  who  spend  their  whole  lives 
in  the  sawing  of  marble,  and  devote  all  their  attention 
to  it ;  this  is  a  very  humble  business  and  of  not  much 
consequence;  there  are  other  people  who  are  astonished 
at  this,  yet  who  are  of  no  use  whatever,  and  spend  their 
days  in  doing  nothing,  which  is  inferior  to  sawing  marble. 

(103.)  Most  men  are  so  oblivious  of  their  souls,  and 
act  and  live  in  such  a  manner,  that  to  them  it  seems  to 
be  of  no  use  whatever ;  we  therefore  deem  it  no  small 
commendation  of  any  man  to  say  he  thinks  ;  this  has 
become  a  common  eulogy,  and  yet  it  places  a  man  only 
above  a  dog  or  a  horse. 

(104.)  "How  do  you  amuse  yourself.''  How  do  you 
pass  your  time  ?  "  fools  and  clever  people  ask  you.  If 
I  answer,  in  opening  my  eyes,  in  seeing,  hearing,  and 
understanding,  in  enjoying  health,  rest,  and  freedom, 
that  is  nothing  ;  the  soHd,  the  great,  and  the  only  advan- 
tages of  life  are  of  no  account.  "  I  gamble,  I  intrigue," 
are  the  answers  they  expect. 

Is  it  good  for  a  man  to  have  too  great  and  extensive 
a  freedom,  which  only  induces  him  to  wish  for  some- 
thing else,  which  would  be  to  have  less  liberty  ? 

Liberty  is  not  indolence  ;  it  is  a  free  use  of  time  ;  it 
is  to  choose  our  labour  and  our  relaxation  ;  in  one  word, 
to  be  free  is  not  to  do  nothing,  but  to  be  the  sole  judge 
of  what  we  wish  to  do  and  to  leave  undone  ;  in  this 
sense  liberty  is  a  great  boon. 


OF   OPINIONS.  365 

(105.)  Caesar  was  not  too  old  to  think  of  conquering 
the  entire  world  ;  his  sole  happiness  was  to  lead  a  noble 
life  and  to  leave  behind  him  a  great  name  ;  being 
naturally  proud  and  ambitious,  and  enjoying  robust 
health,  he  could  not  better  employ  his  time  than  in 
subjugating  all  nations,  Alexander  was  very  young  for 
so  serious  a  design  ;  it  is  surprising  that  women  or  wine 
did  not  sooner  ruin  the  undertaking  of  a  man  of  such 
tender  years.  ^ 

(106.)  A  young  prince,  of  an  august  race,2  the  love 
and  hope  of  his  people,  granted  by  Heaven  to  prolong 
the  felicity  of  this  earth,  greater  than  his  ancestors,  the 
son  of  a  hero  who  is  his  exemplar,  has  by  his  divine 
qualities  and  anticipated  virtues  already  convinced  the 
universe  that  the  sons  of  heroes  are  nearer  being  so 
than  other  men.^ 

(107.)  If  the  world  is  only  to  last  a  hundred  million 
years,  it  is  still  in  all  its  freshness,  and  has  but  just 
begun  ;  we  ourselves  are  so  near  the  first  men  and  the 
patriarchs,  that  remote  ages  will  not  fail  to  reckon .  us 
among  them.  But  if  we  may  judge  of  what  is  to  come 
by  what  is  past,  what  new  things  will  spring  up  in  arts, 
sciences,  in  nature,  and,  I  venture  to  say,  even  in  his- 
tory, which  are  as  yet  unknown  to  us  !    What  discoveries 

1  Montaigne  was  of  the  opinion  of  La  Bruyere  and  in  favour  of  Caesar  ; 
Pascal,  in  his  Pensies,  on  the  contrary,  thought  that  Caesar,  assassinated  at 
the  age  of  fifty-six,  was  too  old  for  the  conquest  of  the  world,  and  that  it 
would  have  better  suited  the  youthful  Alexander.     See  also  page  49,  §  31. 

2  This  paragraph  in  praise  of  the  Dauphin  (1661-1711),  written  in  epi- 
graphic  style,  was  printed  in  capital  letters,  and  published  whilst  he  was 
in  command  of  the  army  of  the  Rhine  (16S8). 

3  La  Bruyere  says  in  a  note  :  "This  is  an  opinion  opposed  to  a  well- 
known  Latin  maxim."  Erasmus,  in  his  Adagiorum  Chiliades,  gives  the 
Latinised  proverb,  Filii  heroum  twxa,  "the  sons  of  heroes  degenerate,"  and 
our  author  alludes  to  this.  As  for  the  "divine  qualities,"  see  page  51, 
§33. 


366  OF   OPINIONS. 

will  be  made !  What  various  revolutions  will  happen 
in  states  and  empires  !  What  ignorance  must  be  ours, 
and  how  slight  is  an  experience  of  not  above  six  or 
seven  thousand  years  ! 

(108.)  No  way  is  too  tedious  for  him  who  travels 
slowly  and  without  being  in  a  hurry ;  no  advantages 
are  too  remote  for  those  who  have  patience. 

(109.)  To  court  nobody,  and  not  to  expect  to  be 
courted  by  any  one,  is  a  happy  condition,  a  golden  age, 
and  the  most  natural  state  of  man.^ 

(no.)  Those  who  follow  courts  or  live  in  towns  only 
care  for  the  world ;  but  those  who  dwell  in  the  country 
care  for  nature,  fpr  they  alone  live,  or  at  least  know  that 
they  live. 

(hi.)  Why  this  coldness,  and  why  do  you  complain 
of  some  expressions  which  escaped  me  about  some  of 
our  young  courtiers  ?  You  are  not  vicious,  Thrasyllus  ? 
If  you  are,  it  is  unknown  to  me  ;  but  you  yourself  tell 
me  so ;  what  I  do  know  is  that  you  are  no  longer 
young. 

You  are  personally  offended  at  what  I  said  of  some 
great  men,  but  you  should  not  cry  out  when  other  people 
are  hurt  Are  you  haughty,  wicked,  a  buffoon,  a 
flatterer,  or  a  hypocrite  ?  I  protest  I  was  ignorant  of 
it,  and  did  not  think  of  you  ;  I  was  speaking  of  men  of 
high  rank. 

(112.)  Moderation  and  a  certain  prudent  behaviour 
leave  men  unknown  ;  in  order  to  be  known  and  admired 
they  must  have  great  virtues,  or  perhaps  great  vices. 

(113.)  Whether  men  are  of  a  superior  or  of  an  in- 
ferior condition,   as  soon  as  they  are  successful,  their 

1  La  Bruyere's  feeling  about  the  happiness  of  being  his  own  master 
breaks  out  now  and  then.     See  also  page  232,  §  33. 


OF   OPINIONS.  367 

fellow-men  are  prejudiced  in  their  favour,  delighted  and 
in  raptures  ;  a  crime  which  has  not  failed  is  almost  as 
much  commended  as  real  virtue,  and  luck  supplies  the 
place  of  all  qualities  ;  it  must  be  an  atrocious  action,  a 
foul  and  nefarious  attempt  indeed,  which  success  cannot 
justify.^ 

(114.)  Men,  led  away  by  fair  appearances  and  specious 
pretences,  are  easily  induced  to  like  and  approve  an 
ambitious  scheme  contrived  by  some  great  man  ;  they 
speak  feelingly  of  it ;  its  boldness  or  novelty  pleases 
them  ;  it  is  already  familiar  to  them,  and  they  expect 
naught  but  its  success.  But  should  it  happen  to  mis- 
carry, they  confidently,  and  without  any  regard  for  their 
former  judgment,  decide  that  the  plan  was  rash  and 
could  never  succeed.^ 

(115.)  Certain  designs  are  of  such  great  splendour 
and  of  such  enormous  consequence,  that  people  talk 
about  them  for  a  long  time ;  that  they  lead  nations  to 
fear  or  to  hope,  according  to  their  various  interests,  and 
that  a  man  stakes  his  glory  and  his  entire  fortune  on 
them.  After  appearing  on  the  world's  stage  with  such 
pomp  he  cannot  slink  away  in  silence  ;  whatever  terrible 
dangers  he  foresees  will  be  the  consequences  of  his  under- 
taking ;  he  must  commence  it ;  the  smallest  evil  he  has 
to  expect  will  be  a  failure. 

(116.)  You  cannot  make  a  great  man  of  a  wicked 
man ;  you  may  commend  his  plans  and  contrivances, 
admire  his  conduct,  extol  his  skill  in  employing  the  surest 
and  shortest  means  to  obtain  his  end  ;  but  if  his  purpose 


J  This  paragraph,  and  almost  all  the  following  ones,  refer  to  the  revolution 
(1688)  which  placed  William  III.  on  the  throne  of  Great  Britain. 

3  An  allusion  to  the  abortive  attempt  of  the  French  in  Ireland  to  aid  in 
the  re-establishment  of  James  II.     See  also  page  218,  note  2. 


368  OF   OPINIONS. 

be  bad,  prudence  has  no  share  in  it,  and  where  prudence 
is  wanting  no  greatness  can  ever  exist. 

(117.)  An  enemy  is  dead  who  was  at  the  head  of  a 
formidable  army,  and  intended  to  cross  the  Rhine ;  he 
understood  the  art  of  war,  and  his  experience  might 
have  been  seconded  by  fortune.  What  bonfires  were 
lit,  and  what  rejoicings  took  place  !  But  there  are  other 
men,  naturally  odious,  who  are  dishked  by  every  one  ; 
it  is  therefore  not  on  account  of  their  success,  nor  be- 
cause people  fear  they  might  be  successful,  that  the  voice 
of  the  public  is  lifted  up,  and  that  the  very  children's 
hearts  leap  for  joy  as  soon  as  it  is  rumoured  abroad  that 
the  earth  is  at  length  rid  of  them.^ 

(118.)  "  O  times  !  O  morals  !  "  ^  exclaims  Heraclitus,'' 
"  O  unfortunate  age,  rich  in  bad  examples,  when  virtue 
is  persecuted  and  crime  is  predominant  and  triumphant !" 
I  will  turn  a  Lycaon  or  an  ^gistheus,^  for  I  can  never 
meet  with  a  better  opportunity  nor  a  more  favourable  con- 
juncture ;  if,  at  least,  I  desire  to  be  prosperous  and  to 
flourish.  A  certain  personage  ^  says,  "  I  will  cross  the 
sea  ;  I  will  dispossess  my  father  of  his  patrimony  ;  I  will 
drive  him,  his  wife,  and  his  heir  from  their  territory  and 
kingdom  ;  "  and  he  not  only  says  it  but  does  it.     What 


1  The  first-mentioned  enemy  was  Charles  V.,  Duke  of  Lorraine,  who  died 
in  1690 ;  the  second  was  William  III.,  a  rumour  of  whose  death  spread  in 
Paris  the  same  year,  and  caused  great  rejoicings. 

2  O  Temporal  O  Mores  I  is  the  opening  of  the  first  of  Cicero's  Cati- 
linaria. 

3  Our  author  lets  Heraclitus,  the  weeping  philosopher,  utter  this  par.i. 
graph,  whilst  he  puts  the  following  into  the  mouth  of  Democritus,  the 
laughing,  or  better,  fhe  sneering  philosopher  of  Abdera. 

4  According  to  the  mythology,  Lycaon,  king  of  Arcadia,  murdered  his 
guests  and  served  them  up  at  his  table,  in  order  to  test  the  divine  knowledge 
of  Jupiter,  who  changed  him  into  a  wolf,  ^gistheus  was  the  son  of  Thyestes, 
and  the  murderer  of  Agamemnon. 

5  William  III. 


OF   OPINIONS.  369 

he  had  reason  to  dread  was  the  resentment  of  many 
kings,  insulted  in  the  person  of  one  monarch.  But  they 
side  with  him  ;  they  almost  have  said  to  him  :  "  Cross 
the  sea,  rob  your  father  ;  and  let  the  entire  world  witness 
how  a  king  can  be  driven  from  his  kingdom,  as  if  he 
were  a  petty  lord  turned  out  from  his  castle,  or  a  farmer 
from  his  farm ;  show  them  that  there  is  no  longer 
any  difference  between  private  persons  and  ourselves. 
We  are  tired  of  these  distinctions  ;  teach  the  world  that 
the  nations  whom  God  has  placed  underneath  our  feet 
may  abandon  us,  betray  us,  and  give  us  up,  and  themselves 
as  well,  into  the  hands  of  the  stranger,  and  that  they 
have  less  to  fear  from  us  than  we  have  to  dread  them 
and  their  power."  ^  What  person  can  behold  such  a 
sad  scene  without  shedding  tears  or  being  deeply  moved  ! 
Every  office  has  its  privileges,  and  every  official  speaks, 
pleads,  and  agitates  to  defend  them ;  the  royal  dignity 
alone  enjoys  no  longer  such  privileges,  and  the  kings 
themselves  have  renounced  them.  Only  one  among 
them,  ever  kind-hearted  and  magnanimous,  opens  his 
arms  to  receive  an  unhappy  family ;  ^  all  the  others 
league  themselves  against  him  as  if  to  avenge  the  assist- 
ance he  lends  to  a  cause  which  is  theirs  as  well ;  spite 
and  jealousy  have  more  weight  with  them  than  con- 
siderations for  their  honour,  religion,  and  rule,  and  even 
than  domestic  and  personal  interests  ;  they  do  not  per- 
ceive that,  I  will  not  say  their  election,  but  their  very 
succession,  and  even  their  hereditary  rights  are  at  stake. 
Finally,  in  every  one  of  them  personal  feelings  prevail 


1  The  "they  have  less  to  fear  from  us,"  &c.,  was  also  one  of  the  argu- 
ments used  by  France  during  ihe  first  revolution. 

2  This,    of   course,    refers  to    the  hospitality   Louis  XIV.   granted   to 
James  II. 

2  A 


370  OF   OPINIONS. 

over  those  of  a  sovereign.  One  prince  was  going  to  set 
Europe  free,  and  free  himself  as  well  from  an  ominous 
enemy  ;  he  was  just  on  the  point  of  reaping  the  glory  of 
having  destroyed  a  mighty  empire  when  he  abandoned 
his  plan,  and  joined  in  a  war  in  which  success  is  far  from 
certain.  1  Those  rulers  who  by  virtue  of  their  position 
are  arbitrators  and  mediators  temporise ;  and  when  they 
could  already  have  interfered  and  done  some  good,  they 
only  promise  they  will  do  so.^  *'  O  shepherds,"  con- 
tinues Heraclitus,  "  O  ye  rustics  who  dwell  in  hovels 
and  cottages ;  if  the  course  of  events  does  not  affect 
you,  if  your  hearts  are  not  pierced  by  the  malice  of 
men,  if  man  is  no  longer  mentioned  among  you,  but 
foxes  and  lynxes  are  the  only  subjects  of  your  conversa- 
tion, allow  me  to  dwell  with  you,  to  appease  my  hunger 
with  your  black  bread,  and  to  quench  my  thirst  with  the 
water  from  your  wells." 

(119.)  Ye  little  men,  only  six  feet  high,  or  at  most 
seven,  who,  as  soon  as  you  have  reached  eight  feet,  are 
to  be  seen  for  money  in  booths  at  the  fairs,  as  giants 
and  wonders ;  who,  without  blushing,  give  yourselves 
the  titles  of  "  highnesses  "  and  "  eminences,"  which  is 
the  utmost  that  can  be  granted  to  those  mountain-tops 
so  near  the  sky  that  they  see  the  clouds  form  underneath 
them  ;  ye  haughty,  vain-glorious  animals  who  despise 
all  other  creatures,  and  who  cannot  even  be  compared 
to   an  elephant    or  a  whale,    draw  near,  ye  men,  and 

1  Leopold  I.  (see  page  252,  note  3),  Emperor  of  Germany,  broke  off  a  war 
in  which  he  was  engaged  against  the  Ottomans,  who  had  twice  invaded 
Hungary,  and  entered  the  League  of  Augsburg  (1686)  against  Louis  XIV., 
because  the  latter  had  compelled  him  to  accept  the  Treaty  of  Nimeguen, 
in  1679.     See  page  253,  note  2. 

2  An  allusion  to  Pope  Innocent  XI.  (see  page  361,  note  i),  who  was 
too  little  of  a  friend  of  Louis  XIV.  to  show  much  zeal  on  behalf  of 
James  II. 


OF   OPINIONS.  371 

answer  Democritus.  Do  you  not  commonly  speak  of 
"hungry  wolves,  furious  lions,  and  mischievous  mon- 
keys?" Pray,  who  are  you?  '*  Man  is  a  rational  crea- 
ture "  is  continually  dinned  in  my  ears.  Who  gave  you 
this  appellation  ?  Did  the  wolves,  or  the  lions,  or  the  mon- 
keys do  so,  or  did  you  take  it  yourselves  ?  It  is  already 
very  ridiculous  that  you  should  bestow  on  animals,  your 
fellow-creatures,  all  the  bad  epithets,  and  take  the  best 
for  yourselves  ;  leave  it  to  them  to  give  names,  and  you 
will  see  that  they  will  not  forget  themselves,  and  how 
you  will  be  treated.  I  do  not  mention,  O  men,  your 
frivolities,  your  follies  and  caprices,  which  place  you 
lower  than  the  mole  or  the  tortoise,  who  wisely  move 
along  quietly  and  follow  invariably  their  own  natural 
instinct ;  but  listen  to  me  for  a  moment  :  You  say 
of  a  goshawk  if  it  be  very  swift-winged  and  swoops  well 
down  on  a  partridge,  that  it  is  a  good  bird  ;  of  a  grey- 
hound following  a  hare  very  close  and  catching  it, 
that  it  is  a  first-rate  dog ;  it  is  also  quite  right  that  you 
should  say  of  a  man  who  hunts  the  wild  boar,  brings  it 
to  bay,  walks  up  to  it  and  kills  it  with  a  spear,  that  he 
is  a  courageous  man.  But  if  you  see  two  dogs  bark- 
ing at  each  other,  provoke,  bite,  and  tear  one  another 
to  pieces,  you  say  they  are  foolish  creatures,  and  take  a 
stick  to  part  them.  If  any  one  should  come  and  tell 
you  that  all  the  cats  of  a  large  country  met  in  a  plain 
in  their  thousands  and  tens  of  thousands,  and  that  after 
they  had  squalled  to  their  hearts'  content  they  had 
fallen  upon  each  other  tooth  and  nail ;  that  about  ten 
thousand  of  them  had  been  left  dead  on  the  spot  and 
infected  the  air  for  ten  leagues  round  with  their  evil- 
smelling  carcasses ;  would  you  not  say  that  it  was  the 
most  disgraceful  row  you  ever  heard  ?     And  if  the  wolves 


372  OF   OPINIONS. 

acted  in  the  same  way,  what  a  butchery  would  there  be, 
and  what  howls  would  be  heard  !  Now,  if  these  two 
kind  of  animals  were  to  tell  you  they  love  glory,  would 
you  come  to  the  conclusion  that  this  glory  consists  in 
their  meeting  together  in  such  a  way  to  destroy  and 
annihilate  their  own  species  ;  and  if  you  have  come  to 
such  a  conclusion,  would  you  not  laugh  heartily  at  the 
folly  of  these  poor  animals  ?  Like  rational  creatures, 
and  to  distinguish  yourselves  from  those  which  only 
make  use  of  their  teeth  and  claws,  you  have  invented 
spears,  pikes,  darts,  sabres,  and  scimitars,  and,  in  my 
opinion,  very  judiciously  ;  for  what  could  you  have  done 
to  one  another  merely  with  your  hands,  except  tearing 
your  hair,  scratching  your  faces,  and,  at  best,  gouging  one 
another's  eyes  out ;  whilst  now  you  are  provided  with  con- 
venient instruments  for  making  large  wounds  and  for 
letting  out  the  utmost  drop  of  your  blood,  without  there 
being  any  fear  of  your  remaining  alive  ?  But  as  you 
grow  more  rational  from  year  to  year,  you  have  greatly 
improved  the  old  fashion  of  destroying  yourselves  ;  you 
use  certain  little  globes  ^  which  kill  at  once,  if  they  but 
hit  you  on  the  head  or  chest ;  you  have  other  globes, 
heavier  and  more  massive,^  which  cleverly  cut  you  in 
two  or  disembowel  you,  without  counting  those  falling  on 
your  roof,^  breaking  through  the  floors  from  the  garret 
to  the  cellar,  which  they  destroy,  and  blowing  up  your 
wife  who  is  lying-in,  and  the  child,  the  nurse,  and  the 
house  as  well.  And  yet  this  is  glory,  which  delights 
in  all  this  hurly-burly  and  mighty  hubbub  !  You 
have  also  defensive  arms,  and  according  to  the  rules 
and  regulations,  when  waging  war,  you  should  put  on 
a   suit    of   iron,   no    doubt   a   pretty    becoming  dress, 

1  Musket-balls.  2  Cannon-balls.  3  Shells. 


OF  OPINIONS.  373 

which  always  puts  me  in  mind  of  those  four  famous 
fleas,  formerly  shown  by  a  cunning  artist,  a  quack,  who 
knew  how  to  keep  them  alive  in  a  glass  phial ;  each  of 
those  little  animals  wore  a  helmet,  their  bodies  were 
covered  by  a  breastplate  ;  they  had  vambraces,  knee- 
pieces,  and  a  spear  at  their  side ;  their  accoutrements 
were  quite  perfect,  and  thus  they  skipped  and  jumped 
about  in  their  bottle.  Fancy  a  man  of  the  size  of 
Mount  Athos,!  and  why  not  ?  Would  a  soul  be  puzzled 
to  animate  such  a  body,  for  it  would  have  plenty  of 
room  to  move  about  in  ?  If  such  a  man's  sight  were 
piercing  enough  to  discover  you  somewhere  upon  earth, 
with  your  offensive  and  defensive  arms,  what  do  you 
think  would  be  his  opinion  of  a  parcel  of  little  marmo- 
sets thus  equipped,  and  of  what  you  call  war,  cavalry, 
infantry,  a  memorable  siege,  a  famous  battle  ?  Shall 
I  never  hear  any  other  sound  buzz  in  my  ears.-*  Is 
the  world  only  filled  with  regiments  and  companies? 
Has  everything  been  changed  to  battalions  and  squad- 
rons ? — He  takes  a  town,  then  a  second,  then  a  third  ; 
he  wins  a  battle,  two  battles,  he  drives  away  the  enemy, 
he  conquers  by  sea,  by  land. — Do  you  say  these  things 
of  one  of  you,  or  of  a  giant,  a  Mount  Athos  ?  There  is 
a  remarkable  man  amongst  you,  pale  and  livid,^  with 
not  ten  ounces  of  flesh  on  his  bones,  and  who  would  be 
blown  down  by  the  least  gust  of  wind,  one  would  think, 
aiid  yet  he  makes  more  noise  than  half-a-dozen  men, 
and  sets  everything  in  a  blaze ;  he  has  just  now  been 

1  Athos  was  a  mountain  in  Roumelia  which  the  sculptor  Dinocrates  pro- 
posed to  hew  into  a  statue  of  Alexander.  Our  author  refers  to  this  ;  Byron 
has  also  an  allusion  to  it  in  the  twelfth  canto  of  his  "  Don  Juan." 

2  The  enemies  of  William  HI.  often  alluded  to  the  livid  colour  of  his  coun- 
tenance, and  Boileau  in  his  wretched  Odesur  la  ptise  de  A'iawwr  also  speaks 
of  "  Nassau  bleme." 


374  OF   OPINIONS. 

fishing  in  troubled  waters,  and  caught  a  whole  island 
at  once ;  in  another  place,  it  is  true,  he  is  beaten  and 
pursued,  but  escapes  into  the  bogs,^  and  will  hearken 
neither  to  peace  nor  to  truce.  He  began  betimes  to 
show  what  he  could  do,  and  so  severely  bit  his  nurse's 
breast  2  that  the  poor  woman  died  of  it ;  I  know  what 
I  mean,  and  that  is  sufficient.  To  conclude  :  he  was 
born  a  subject  and  is  no  longer  one  ;  on  the  contrary, 
he  is  now  the  master,  and  those  whom  he  has  overcome 
and  brought  under  his  yoke  are  harnessed  to  the  plough 
and  till  the  ground  with  might  and  main  ;  those  good 
people  seem  even  afraid  of  being  unyoked  one  day  and 
of  becoming  free,  for  they  have  pulled  out  the  thong 
and  lengthened  the  handle  of  the  whip  of  the  man  who 
drives  them ;  they  forget  nothing  that  can  increase 
their  slavery;  they  let  him  cross  the  water  so  that  he 
may  get  new  vassals  and  acquire  fresh  territories ;  and 
to  succeed  in  this  he  has,  it  is  true,  only  to  take  his 
father  and  mother  by  the  shoulders  and  throw  them  out 
of  doors,  and  they  aid  him  in  this  virtuous  undertaking. 
The  people  on  this  side  and  that  side  of  the  water  sub- 
scribe, and  each  pays  his  share,  to  render  him  every 
day  more  and  more  formidable  to  all ;  the  Picts  and 
the  Saxons  compel  the  Batavians  to  be  silent,  and 
the  latter  act  in  the  same  manner  to  the  Picts  and 
Saxons ;  they  may  all  boast  of  being  his  humble 
slaves,  as  they  wished  to  be.      But  what  do  I  hear  of 

1  The  Prince  of  Orange  ordered  in  1672  the  dykes  in  Holland  to  be 
opened  to  delay  the  advance  of  the  French  army ;  hence  the  allusion  to 
"bogs." 

2  William  III.  became  the  adopted  son  of  the  Dutch  republic  on  the 
death  of  his  father  in  i666,  and  on  the  proposal  of  John  de  Witt.  French- 
men pretend  he  was  far  more  dictatorial  in  Holland  than  in  England,  and 
accuse  him  of  having  behaved  ungratefully  towards  de  Witt,  his  so-called 
"  nurse." 


^4i„.i^ro}^ii.tJ^ ^f  >.y. 


WILLIAM    III 


OF  OPINIONS.  375 

certain  personages  who  wear  crowns  ?  I  do  not  mean 
counts  or  marquesses,  who  swarm  on  this  earth,  but 
princes  and  sovereigns.  This  man  does  but  whistle, 
and  they  come  at  his  call ;  they  uncover  as  soon  as  they 
are  in  his  anteroom,  and  never  speak  but  when  he  asks 
them  a  question.^  Are  these  the  same  princes  who 
cavil  so  much  and  are  so  precise  about  rank  and  pre- 
cedence, and  who  spend  whole  months  in  regulating 
such  questions  whilst  some  Diet  is  assembled  ?  What 
shall  this  new  ruler  ^  do  to  reward  so  blind  a  submission, 
and  to  satisfy  the  high  opinion  they  have  of  him.''  If  a 
battle  is  to  be  fought,  he  must  win  it,  and  in  person  ; 
if  the  enemy  besieges  a  town,  he  must  go  raise  the 
siege  and  drive  him  away  with  ignominy,  unless  the 
ocean  be  between  him  and  the  enemy ;  ^  it  is  the  least 
he  can  do  to  please  his  courtiers.  Caesar  *  himself  comes 
and  swells  their  number ;  at  least  he  expects  important 
services  from  him  ;  for  either  the  "  archon  "  and  his  allies 
will  fail,  which  is  more  difficult  than  impossible  to  con- 
ceive, or,  if  he  succeeds,  and  nothing  resists  him,  he  is 
ready  with  his  allies,  who  are  jealous  of  Caesar's  religion 
and  greatness,  to  rush  upon  him,  snatch  away  his  eagle, 
and  reduce  him  and  his  heir  to  the  "  fasces  argent "  ^  and 
to  his  hereditary  dominions.  But  there  is  no  use  saying 
anything  more ;   they  have  all  voluntarily  given  them- 


iWhen  William  III.  returned  to  the  Hague  (1690),  several  princes  who 
had  joined  the  League  of  Augsburg  came  to  compliment  him ;  it  was  even 
rumoured  that  the  Elector  of  Bavaria  had  some  time  to  wait  before  he  could 
obtain  an  audience. 

2  In  the  original  archonte,  archon,  the  chief  magistrate  in  ancient 
Athens. 

3  This  seems  to  refer  to  the  siege  of  Mons  (1690),  which  William  III.  did 
not  venture  to  raise. 

*  The  Emperor  of  Germany. 

^  The  arms  of  the  house  of  Austria  proper. 


376  OF    OPINIONS. 

selves  up  to  the  man  whom  they  should  perhaps  have  dis- 
trusted the  most.  Would  Esop  not  have  told  them  that 
"  the  feathered  tribe  of  a  certain  country  got  alarmed 
and  frightened  at  being  near  a  lion,  whose  mere  roar 
terrified  them  ;  they  went  to  the  animal,  who  persuaded 
them  he  would  come  to  some  arrangement,  and  take 
them  under  his  protection.  The  end  of  it  was  that 
he  gobbled  them  all  up  one  after  another." 


OF  FASHION. 


(i.)  TT  is  very  foolish,  and  betrays  wliat  a  small  mind 
we  have,  to  allow  fashion  to  sway  us  in  every- 
thing that  regards  taste,  in  our  way  of  living,  our  health, 
and  our  conscience.  Game  is  out  of  fashion,  and 
therefore  insipid,  and  fashion  forbids  to  cure  a  fever  by 
bleeding.  This  long  while  it  has  also  not  been  fashion- 
able to  depart  this  life  shriven  by  Theotimus ;  now 
none  but  the  common  people  are  saved  by  his  pious 
exhortations,  and  he  has  already  beheld  his  successor.^ 
(2.)  To  have  a  hobby  is  not  to  have  a  taste  for  what 

1  Theotimus  stands  for  M.  Sachet,  who  was  vicar  of  Saint-Gervais  at 
the  time  La  Bruyere  wrote,  and  used  to  shrive  all  the  fashionable  people, 
but  gradually  was  supplanted  by  Bourdaloue,  who  also  succeeded  him  in 
his  vicarage.  The  fashion  of  not  bleeding  during  a  fever  still  exists,  and 
rightly  so. 


378  OF   FASHION. 

is  good  and  beautiful,  but  for  what  is  rare  and  singular, 
and  for  what  no  one  else  can  match ;  it  is  not  to  like 
things  which  are  perfect,  but  those  which  are  most 
sought  after  and  fashionable.  It  is  not  an  amuse- 
ment but  a  passion,  and  often  so  violent  that  in  the 
meanness  of  its  object  it  only  yields  to  love  and  ambi- 
tion. Neither  is  it  a  passion  for  everything  scarce 
and  in  vogue,  but  only  for  some  particular  object  which 
is  rare,  and  yet  in  fashion. 

The  lover  of  flowers  has  a  garden  in  the  suburbs, 
where  he  spends  all  his  time  from  sunrise  till  sunset. 
You  see  him  standing  there,  and  would  think  he  had 
taken  root  in  the  midst  of  his  tulips  before  his 
"  Solitaire ; "  he  opens  his  eyes  wide,  rubs  his  hands, 
stoops  down  and  looks  closer  at  it ;  it  never  before 
seemed  to  him  so  handsome  ;  he  is  in  an  ecstasy  of 
joy,  and  leaves  it  to  go  to  the  "  Orient,"  then  to  the 
"  Veuve,"  from  thence  to  the  "  Cloth  of  Gold,"  on  to  the 
"  Agatha,"  and  at  last  returns  to  the  "  Solitaire,"  where 
he  remains,  is  tired  out,  sits  down,  and  forgets  his 
dinner ;  he  looks  at  the  tulip  and  admires  its  shade, 
shape,  colour,  sheen,  and  edges,  its  beautiful  form  and 
calix ;  but  God  and  nature  are  not  in  his  thoughts,  for 
they  do  not  go  beyond  the  bulb  of  his  tulip,  which  he 
would  not  sell  for  a  thousand  crowns,  though  he  will 
give  it  to  you  for  nothing  when  tulips  are  no  longer  in 
fashion,  and  carnations  are  all  the  rage.  This  rational 
being,  who  has  a  soul  and  professes  some  religion, 
comes  home  tired  and  half-starved,  but  very  pleased 
with  his  day's  work ;   he  has  seen  some  tulips.^ 

'  The  "Keys"  speak  of  a  certain  lawyer,  Cambout  or  Cabout,  who 
belonged  to  the  household  of  the  Condes,  and  of  a  flute-player,  Descosteaux, 
both  passionately  fond  of  flowers,  as  the  supposed  originals  of  the  "lover  of 
flowers." 


OF    FASHION.  379 

Talk  to  another  of  the  healthy  look  of  the  crops,  of 
a  plentiful  harvest,  of  a  good  vintage,  and  you  will 
find  he  only  cares  for  fruit,  and  understands  not  a 
single  word  you  say  ;  then  turn  to  figs  and  melons  ;  tell 
him  that  this  year  the  pear-trees  are  so  heavily  laden 
with  fruit  that  the  branches  almost  break,  that  there 
are  abundance  of  peaches,  and  you  address  him  in  a 
language  he  completely  ignores,  and  he  will  not  answer 
you,  for  his  sole  hobby  is  plum-trees.  Do  not  even 
speak  to  him  of  your  plum-trees,  for  he  only  is  fond  of 
a  certain  kind,  and  laughs  and  sneers  at  the  mention  of 
any  others  ;  he  takes  you  to  his  tree  and  cautiously 
gathers  this  exquisite  plum,  divides  it,  gives  you  one 
half,  keeps  the  other  himself,  and  exclaims :  "  How 
delicious  !  do  you  like  it  ?  is  it  not  heavenly  ?  You 
cannot  find  its  equal  anywhere ; "  and  then  his  nostrils 
dilate,  and  he  can  hardly  contain  his  joy  and  pride 
under  an  appearance  of  modesty.  What  a  wonderful 
person,  never  enough  praised  and  admired,  whose  name 
will  be  handed  down  to  future  ages  1  Let  me  look  at 
his  mien  and  shape  whilst  he  is  still  in  tiie  land  of  the 
living,  that  I  may  study  the  features  and  the  counte- 
nance of  a  man  who,  alone  amongst  mortals,  is  the 
happy  possessor  of  such  a  plum.^ 

Visit  a  third,  and  he  will  talk  to  you  about  his  brother 
collectors,  but  especially  of  Diognetes.^  He  admits 
that  he  admires  him,  but  that  he  understands  him  less 
than  ever.  "  Perhaps  you  imagine,"  he  continues,  "  that 
he  endeavours  to  learn  something  of  his  medals,  and  con- 

1  This  lover  of  fruit  was  the  financier  Rambouillet  de  la  Sabliere,  who  had 
a  large  garden  in  the  Faubourg  Saint-Antome.     See  also  page  173,  note  10. 

^  Four  well-known  antiquarians,  the  Diike  d'Aumont,  Vaillant,  Le  Nostre, 
and  Father  Menestrier,  the  latter  author  of  an  Histoire  de  Louis  le  grand 
far  les  tnedaiUes,  have  been  supposed  the  originals  of  Diognetes. 


380  OF   FASHION. 

siders  them  speaking  evidences  of  certain  facts  that 
have  happened,  fixed  and  unquestionable  monuments  of 
ancient  history.  If  you  do,  you  are  wholly  wrong. 
Perhaps  you  think  that  all  the  trouble  he  takes  to  be- 
come master  of  a  medallion  with  a  certain  head  on  it  is 
because  he  will  be  delighted  to  possess  an  uninterrupted 
series  of  emperors.  If  you  do,  you  are  more  hopelessly 
wrong  than  ever.  Diognetes  knows  when  a  coin  is 
worn,  when  the  edges  are  rougher  than  they  ought  to 
be,  or  when  it  looks  as  if  it  had  been  newly  struck ;  all 
the  drawers  of  his  cabinet  are  full,  and  there  only  is 
room  for  one  coin  ;  this  vacancy  so  shocks  him  that 
in  reality  he  spends  all  his  property  and  literally  devotes 
his  whole  lifetime  to  fill  it." 

"  Will  you  look  at  my  prints  ? "  asks  Democedes,^ 
and  in  a  moment  he  brings  them  out  and  shows  them 
to  you.  You  see  one  among  them  neither  well  printed 
nor  well  engraved,  and  badly  drawn,  and,  therefore,  more 
fit  on  a  public  holiday  to  be  stuck  against  the  wall  of 
some  house  on  the  "  Petit-Pont "  or  in  the  "  Rue  Neuve"  2 
than  to  be  kept  in  a  collection.  He  allows  it  to  be 
badly  engraved  and  worse  drawn  ;  but  assures  you  it 
was  done  by  an  Italian  who  produced  very  little,  and 
that  hardly  any  of  these  prints  have  been  struck  off,  so 
that  he  has  the  only  one  in  France,  for  which  he  paid 
a  very  heavy  price,  and  would  not  part  with  it  for  the 
very  best  print  to  be  got.  "  I  labour  under  a  very 
serious  affliction,"  he  continues,  "  which  will  one  day 

1  Several  collectors  of  prints  of  the  time  have  been  named  by  the  com- 
mentators as  the  original  of  Democedes. 

2  At  the  time  La  Bruyere  wrote,  the  houses  on  the  bridge  called  the 
"Petit-Pont"  and  those  in  the  "Rue  Neuve-Notre-Dame"  were  covered' 
with  hangings  and  adorned  with  common  prints  on  the  days  when  a  proces- 
sion was  passing. 


OF   FASHION.  381 

or  Other  cause  me  to  give  up  collecting  engravings ;  I 
have  all  Callot's  etchings,^  except  one,  which,  to  tell 
the  truth,  so  far  from  being  the  best,  is  the  worst  he  ever 
did,  but  which  would  complete  my  collection  ;  I  have 
hunted  after  this  print  these  twenty  years,  and  now  I 
despair  of  ever  getting  it ;  it  is  very  trying  !  " 

Another  man  criticises  those  people  who  make  long 
voyages  either  through  nervousness  or  to  gratify  their 
curiosity  ;  who  write  no  narrative  or  memoirs,  and  do 
not  even  keep  a  journal ;  who  go  to  see  and  see  nothing, 
or  forget  what  they  have  seen  ;  who  only  wish  to  get  a 
look  at  towers  or  steeples  they  never  saw  before,  and  to 
Cross  other  rivers  than  the  Seine  or  the  Loire  ;  who  leave 
their  own  country  merely  to  return  again,  and  like  to  be 
absent,  so  that  one  day  it  may  be  said  they  have  come 
from  afar ;  so  far  this  critic  is  right  and  is  worth  listen- 
ing to. 

But  when  he  adds  that  books  are  more  instructive 
than  travelling,  and  gives  me  to  understand  he  has  a 
library,  I  wish  to  see  it.  I  call  on  this  gentleman,  and 
at  the  very  foot  of  the  stairs  I  almost  faint  with  the  smell 
of  the  Russia  leather  bindings  of  his  books.  In  vain  he 
shouts  in  my  ears,  to  encourage  me,  that  they  are  all 
with  gilt  edges  and  hand-tooled,  that  they  are  the  best 
editions,  and  he  names  some  of  them  one  after  another, 
and  that  his  library  is  full  of  them,  except  a  few  places 
painted  so  carefully  that  everybody  takes  them  for  shelves 
and  real  books,  and  is  deceived.  He  also  informs  me 
that  he  never  reads  nor  sets  foot  in  this  library,  and 
now  only  accompanies  me  to  oblige  me.  I  thank  him 
for  his  politeness,  but  feel  as  he  does  on  the  subject,  and 
would  not  like  to  visit  the  tan-pit  which  he  calls  a  Ubrary. 

1  Jacques  Callot  (1593-1655),  a  celebrated  Lorraine  artist  and  etcher. 


382  OF    FASHION. 

Some  people  immoderately  thirst  after  knowledge,  and 
are  unwilling  to  ignore  any  branch  of  it,  so  they  study 
them  all  and  master  none ;  they  are  fonder  of  knowing 
much  than  of  knowing  some  things  well,  and  had  rather 
be  superficial  smatterers  in  several  sciences  than  be 
well  and  thoroughly  acquainted  with  one.  They  every- 
where meet  with  some  person  who  enlightens  and  cor- 
rects them  ;  they  are  deceived  by  their  idle  curiosity, 
and  often,  after  very  long  and  painful  efforts,  can  but 
just  extricate  themselves  from  the  grossest  ignorance. 

Other  people  have  a  master-key  to  all  sciences,  but 
never  enter  there ;  they  spend  their  lives  in  trying  to 
decipher  the  Eastern  and  Northern  languages,  those  of 
both  the  Indies,  of  the  two  poles,  nay,  the  language 
spoken  in  the  moon  itself.  The  most  useless  idioms,  the 
oddest  and  most  hieroglyphical-looking  characters,  are 
just  those  which  awaken  their  passion  and  induce  them 
to  study  ;  they  pity  those  persons  who  ingenuously  con- 
tent themselves  with  knowing  their  own  language,  or,  at 
most,  the  Greek  and  Latin  tongues.  Such  men  read  all 
historians  and  know  nothing  of  history;  they  run  through 
all  books,  but  are  not  the  wiser  for  any;  they  are  absolutely 
ignorant  of  all  facts  and  principles,  but  they  possess  as 
abundant  a  store  and  garner-house  of  words  and  phrases 
as  can  well  be  imagined,  which  weighs  them  down,  and 
with  which  they  overload  their  memory,  whilst  their 
mind  remains  a  blank. 

A  certain  citizen  loves  building,  and  had  a  mansion 
erected  so  handsome,  noble,  and  splendid  that  no  one 
can  live  in  it.^     The  proprietor  is  ashamed  to  occupy  it, 


1  In  the  "Rue  Vieille-du-TempIe,"  in  Paris,  there  was,  at  the  time  our 
author  wrote,  a  mansion  erected  by  M.  Amelot  de  Bisseuil,  which  was  con- 
sidered one  of  the  curiosities  of  Paris. 


OF    FASHION.  383 

and  as  he  cannot  make  up  his  mind  to  let  it  to  a  prince 
or  a  man  of  business,  he  retires  to  the  garret,  where  he 
spends  his  Ufe,  whilst  the  suite  of  rooms  and  the  inlaid 
floors  are  the  prey  of  travelling  Englishmen  and  Germans, 
who  come  to  visit  it  after  having  seen  the  Palais-Royal, 
the  palace  L  .  .  .  G  .  .  .  ^  and  the  Luxembourg.  There 
is  a  continual  knocking  going  on  at  these  handsome 
doors,  and  all  visitors  ask  to  see  the  house,  but  none 
the  master. 

There  are  other  persons  who  have  grown-up  daughters, 
but  they  cannot  afford  to  give  them  a  dowry,  nay,  these 
girls  are  scarcely  clothed  and  fed  ;  they  are  so  poor  that 
they  have  not  even  a  bed  to  lie  upon  nor  a  change  of 
linen.  The  cause  of  their  misery  is  not  very  far  to  seek  ; 
it  is  a  collection  crowded  with  rare  busts,  covered  with 
dust  and  filth,  of  which  the  sale  would  bring  in  a  goodly 
sum ;  but  the  owners  cannot  be  prevailed  upon  to  part 
with  them. 

Diphilus  is  a  lover  of  birds,  he  begins  with  one  and 
ends  with  a  thousand ;  his  house  is  not  enUvened,  but 
infested  by  them  ;  the  courtyard,  the  parlour,  the  stair- 
case, the  hall,  all  the  rooms,  and  even  the  private  study 
are  so  many  aviaries  ;  we  no  longer  hear  warbling,  but 
a  perfect  discord ;  the  autumnal  winds  and  the  most 
rapid  cataracts  do  not  produce  so  shrill  and  piercing 
a  noise ;  there  is  no  hearing  one  another  speak  but  in 
those  apartments  set  apart  for  visitors,  where  people 
will  have  to  wait  until  some  little  curs  have  yelped, 
before  there  is  a  chance  of  seeing  the  master  of  the 
house.  These  birds  are  no  longer  an  agreeable  amuse- 
ment for  Diphilus,  but  a  toilsome  fatigue,  for  which  he 

1  According  to  some   "  Keys,"   this  refers  to  the  Hotel   Lesdiguieres ; 
according  to  others,  to  the  hotel  of  M.  de  LangMe,    See  page  188,  note  2, 


384  OF    FASHION. 

can  scarcely  find  leisure  ;  he  spends  his  days — days 
which  pass  away  and  never  come  back — in  feeding  his 
birds  and  cleaning  them  ;  he  pays  a  man  a  salary  ^  for 
teaching  his  birds  to  sing  with  a  bird-organ,  and  for 
attending  to  the  hatching  of  his  young  canaries.  It  is 
true  that  what  he  spends  on  the  one  hand  he  spares  on 
the  other,  for  his  children  have  neither  teachers  nor 
education.  In  the  evening,  worn  out  by  his  hobby,  he 
shuts  himself  up,  without  being  able  to  enjoy  any  rest 
until  his  birds  have  gone  to  roost,  and  these  little  crea- 
tures, on  which  he  dotes  only  for  their  song,  have  ceased 
to  warble.  He  dreams  of  them  whilst  asleep,  and 
imagines  he  is  himself  a  tufted  bird,  chirping  on  his 
perch  ;  during  the  night  he  even  fancies  he  is  moulting 
and  brooding. 

Who  can  describe  all  the  different  kinds  of  hobbies  ? 
Can  you  imagine  when  you  hear  a  certain  person  speak 
of  his  *'  Panther  Cowry,"  his  "  Pen  Shell,"  and  his 
*'  Music  Shell,"  ^  and  brag  of  them  as  something  very 
rare  and  marvellous,  that  he  intends  to  sell  these  shells  ? 
Why  not  ?  He  has  bought  them  for  their  weight  in 
gold. 

Another  is  an  admirer  of  insects,  and  augments  his 
collection  every  day ;  in  Europe  he  is  the  best  judge  of 
butterflies,  and  has  some  of  all  sizes  and  colours.^  What 
an  unfortunate  time  you  have  chosen  to  pay  him  a  visit ! 
He  is  overwhelmed  with  grief,  and  in  a  fearful  temper, 

1  In  the  original,  zV  donne  pension  a  un  komme,  antiquated  in  this 
sense. 

2  The  author  states  :  "  These  are  names  of  various  shells."  The  original 
has  "  le  Leopard,  la  Plume,  la  Musique,"  and  the  English  names  have  been 
kindly  suggested  by  M.  Hugh  Owen  in  "  Notes  and  Queries "  as  equi- 
valents for  the  French  ones. 

3  A  few  years  before  La  Bruy&re  wrote,  there  was  quite  a  mania  for 
butterflies  at  court,  and  in  Paris. 


OF    FASHION.  385 

which  he  vents  on  his  family ;  he  has  suffered  an  irre- 
parable loss  ;  draw  near  him  and  observe  what  he  shows 
you  on  his  finger  ;  it  is  a  caterpillar,  but  such  a  caterpillar, 
lifeless,  and  but  just  expired. 

(3.)  Duelling  is  the  triumph  of  fashion,  which  it  sways 
tyrannically  and  most  conspicuously.  This  custom  does 
not  allow  a  coward  to  live,  but  compels  him  to  go  and 
be  killed  by  a  man  of  more  valour  than  himself,  and 
to  be  mistaken  for  a  man  of  courage.  The  maddest 
and  most  absurd  action  has  been  called  honourable  and 
glorious  ;  it  has  been  sanctioned  by  the  presence  of 
kings  ;  in  some  cases  it  has  even  been  considered  a 
sort  of  duty  to  countenance  it ;  it  has  decided  the  inno- 
cence of  some  persons,^  and  the  truth  or  falsity  of 
certain  accusations  of  capital  crimes  ;  it  was  so  deeply 
rooted  in  the  opinion  of  all  nations,  and  had  obtained 
such  a  complete  possession  of  the  feelings  and  minds 
of  men,  that  to  cure  them  of  this  folly  has  been  one  of 
the  most  glorious  actions  of  the  greatest  of  monarchs.2 

(4.)  Some  persons  were  formerly  in  high  repute  for 
commanding  armies,  for  diplomacy,  for  pulpit  eloquence, 
or  for  poetry,  and  now  they  are  no  longer  fashionable. 
Do  certain  men  degenerate  from  what  they  formerly 
were,  and  have  their  merits  become  antiquated,  or  is 
our  liking  for  them  worn  out  ? 

(5.)  A  fashionable  man  is  not  long  the  rage,  for 
fashions  are  ephemeral  ;  but  if  he  happens  to  be  a  man 
of  merit,  he  is  not   totally  eclipsed,  but  something  or 

1  An  allusion  to  the  ordeal  by  duel,  of  which  one  of  the  last  was  fought 
between  Jarnac  and  La  Chateigneraye,  in  1542,  before  Henri  II.  and  his 
court.  A  treacherous  thrust  of  the  first-named  nobleman  has  given  rise  to 
the  proverbial  saying  un  coup  de  Jatnac. 

3  Louis  XIV.  was  strongly  opposed  to  duelling,  and  several  legal  prohibi- 
tions of  it  were  promulgated  during  his  reign. 

2   B 


386  OF    FASHION. 

Other  of  him  will  still  survive ;  he  is  as  estimable  as  he 
formerly  was,  but  only  less  esteemed. 

Virtue  is  fortunate  enough  to  be  able  to  do  without 
any  help,  and  can  exist  without  admirers,  partisans,  and 
protectors  ;  lack  of  support  and  approbation  does  not 
harm  it,  but,  on  the  contrary,  strengthens,  purifies,  and 
perfects  it ;  whether  in  or  out  of  fashion,  it  is  still  virtue. 

(6.)  If  you  tell  some  men,  and  especially  the  great, 
that  a  certain  person  is  virtuous,  they  will  say  to  you, 
"  they  trust  he  may  long  remain  so  ; "  that  he  is  very 
clever,  and  above  all,  agreeable  and  entertaining,  they  will 
answer  you,  "  that  it  is  so  much  the  better  for  him  ; " 
that  he  is  a  man  of  culture  and  knows  a  great  deal, 
they  will  ask  you  "  what  o'clock  it  is,  or  what  sort  of 
weather  we  have  ? "  But  if  you  inform  them  that  a 
Tigellinus  1  has  been  gulping  down  a  glass  of  brandy,^ 
and,  wonderful  to  relate,  that  he  has  repeated  this  several 
times  during  his  repast,  they  will  ask  where  he  is,  and 
tell  you  to  bring  him  with  you  the  next  day,  or  that 
same  evening,  if  possible.  We  bring  him  with  us,  and 
that  very  man,  only  fit  for  a  fair  or  to  be  shown  for 
money,  is  treated  by  them  as  a  familiar'acquaintance. 

(7.)  Nothing  brings  a  man  sooner  into  fashion  and 
renders  him  of  greater  importance  than  gambling ;  ^ 
it  is  almost  as  good  as  getting  fuddled.^     I  should  like 

1  Sophonius  Tigellinus,  a  favourite  and  accomplice  of  the  Roman  emperor 
Nero,  was  put  to  death  about  the  year  70. 

2  In  the  original,  soujjfler  zxA  jeter  en  sable,  "to  gulp  down  ;"  only  the  • 
last  word  is  found  in  the  dictionary  of  the  French  Academy  of  1694.  The  old 
English  tran';Iators  of  La  Bruyere  have  been  greatly  puzzled  by  the  sentence 
beginning  with  the  word  " a  Tigellinus,"  and  give  it :  "a  juggler,  one  who 
turns  aqua-vita  black,  and  performs  other  feats  of  legerdemain  (other  sur- 
prising things),"  whilst  the  translation  of  1767  speaks  of  "a  fiddler,  who, 
besides  several  odd  performances  on  his  instrument,  gulps  down,"  &c. 

'  See  the  chapter  "  Of  the  Gifts  of  Fortune,"  §§  71-75. 

*  In  the  original  la  cra/iuU,Tiovi  no  longer  used  for  "intoxication." 


OF    FASHION.  387 

to  see  any  polished,  lively,  witty  gentleman,  even  if  he 
were  Catullus  himself  or  his  disciple,^  dare  to  compare 
himself  with  a  man  who  loses  eight  hundred  pistoles  2 
at  a  sitting. 

(8.)  A  fashionable  person  is  like  a  certain  blue 
flower  which  grows  wild  in  the  fields,  chokes  the 
corn,  spoils  the  crops,  and  takes  up  the  room  of  some- 
thing better ;  it  has  no  beauty  nor  value  but  what  is 
owing  to  a  momentary  caprice,  which  dies  out  almost  as 
soon  as  sprung  up.  To-day  it  is  all  the  rage,  and  the 
ladies  are  decked  with  it  ;  to-morrow  it  is  neglected  and 
left  to  the  common  herd.^ 

A  person  of  merit,  on  the  contrary,  is  a  flower  we  do 
not  describe  by  its  colour,  but  call  by  its  name,  which 
we '  cultivate  for  its  beauty  or  fragrance,  such  as  a  lily 
or  a  rose ;  one  of  the  charms  of  nature,  one  of  those 
things  which  beautify  the  world,  belonging  to  all  times, 
admired  and  popular  for  centuries,  valued  by  our 
fathers,  and  by  us  in  imitation  of  them,  and  not  at  all 
harmed  by  the  dislike  or  antipathy  of  a  few. 

(9.)  Eustrates  is  seated  in  his  small  boat,  delighted 
with  the  fresh  air  and  a  clear  sky  ;  he  is  seen  sailing 
with  a  fair  wind,  likely  to  last  for  some  time,  but  a  lull 
comes  on  all  of  a  sudden,  the  sky  becomes  overcast,  a 
storm  bursts  forth,  the  boat  is  caught  by  a  whirlwind, 
and  is  upset.  Eustrates  rises  to  the  surface  of  the 
waters  and  exerts  himself ;  it  is  to  be  hoped  he  will  at 
least  save  himself  and  get  hold  of  the  boat ;  but  another 


1  C.  Valerius  Catullus  (87-47  b  cX  the  well-known  Roman  poet ;  is  sup. 
posed  to  allude  to  the  Abbe  de  Chaulieu  (see  page  342,  note).  The  latter's 
disciple  was  the  Chevalier  de  Bouillon. 

2  See  page  173,  note  i. 

3  During  the  summer  of  1689  the  fashionable  ladies  at  court  adorned 
themselves  with  bouquets  of  cornflowers. 


388  OF    FASHION. 

wave  sinks  him,  and  he  is  considered  lost :  a  second  time 
he  appears  above  the  water,  and  hope  revives,  when 
a  billow  all  of  a  sudden  swallows  him  up ;  he  is  never 
more  seen  again,  he  is  drowned. 

(10.)  Voiture  and  Sarrazin^  just  suited  the  age  they 
lived  in,  and  appeared  at  the  right  time,  when  it  seems 
they  were  expected;  if  they  had  not  made  such  haste 
they  would  have  come  too  late ;  and  I  question  if,  at 
present,  they  would  have  been  what  they  were  then. 
Light  conversation,  literary  society,  delicate  raillery, 
lively  and  familiar  epistolary  interchange,  and  a  select 
circle  of  friends,  where  intelligence  was  the  only  passport 
of  admittance,  have  all  disappeared.  To  say  that  these 
authors  would  have  revived  them  is  too  much  ;  all  I 
can  venture  to  admit  in  favour  of  their  intellect  is,  that 
perhaps  they  might  have  excelled  in  another  way.  But 
the  ladies  of  the  present  time  are  either  devotees, 
coquettes,  fond  of  gambling,  or  ambitious,  and  some 
of  them  all  these  together ;  court  favour,  gambling, 
gallants,  and  spiritual  directors,  have  taken  their  places, 
and  they  defend  them  against  men  of  culture.^ 

(11.)  A  coxcomb,  who  makes  himself  ridiculous  as 
well,  wears  a  tall  hat,  a  doublet  with  puffs  on  the 
shoulders,  breeches  with  ribbons  or  tags,  and  jack- 
boots ;  at  night  he  dreams  what  he  shall  do  to  be 
taken  notice  of  the  following  day.  A  wise  man  leaves 
the  fashion  of  his  clothes  to  his  tailor ;  it  shows  as 
much  weakness  to  run  counter  to  the  fashion  as  to 
affect  to  follow  it. 

(12.)  We  blame  a  fashion  that  divides  the  shape  of 


1  For  Voiture  see  page  20,  §  37,  and  note  3.     Sarrazin  (1603-1654)  was  a 
rival  of  Voiture  in  an  affected  and  pretentious  style. 

2  Tae  original  has^f/«  d' esprit.     See  page  20,  note  i. 


OF   FASHION.  3S9 

a  man  into  two  equal  parts,  and  takes  one  of  it  for  the 
waist,  whilst  leaving  the  other  for  the  rest  of  the  body  ; 
we  condemn  the  fashion  of  making  of  a  lady's  head  the 
basis  of  an  edifice  of  several  heights,  the  build  and  shape 
of  which  change  according  to  fancy  ;  which  removes 
the  hair  from  the  face,  though  Nature  designed  it  to 
adorn  it  ;  and  ties  it  up  and  makes  it  bristle  so  that  the 
ladies  look  like  Bacchantes ;  this  fashion  seems  to  have 
been  intended  to  make  the  fair  sex  change  its  mild  and 
modest  air  for  one  much  more  haughty  and  bold. 
People  exclaim  against  certain  fashions  as  ridiculous  ; 
but  they  adopt  them  as  long  as  they  last,  to  adorn  and 
embellish  themselves,  and  they  derive  from  them  all  the 
advantages  they  can  expect,  namely,  to  please.  Me- 
thinks  the  inconstancy  and  fickle-mindedness  of  men 
is  to  be  admired  ;  for  they  successively  call  agreeable 
and  ornamental  things  directly  opposed  to  one  another  ; 
they  use  in  plays  and  masquerades  those  same  dresses 
and  ornaments  which,  until  then,  were  considered  as 
denoting  gravity  and  sedateness ;  a  short  time  makes 
all  the  difference.^ 

(13.)  N  .  .  .  is  wealthy;  she  eats  and  sleeps  well; 
but  the  fashion  of  head-dresses  alters,  and  whilst  she 
does  not  think  anything  at  all  about  it,  and  believes  her- 
self quite  happy,  her  head-dress  has  quite  grown  out  of 
fashion. 

(14.)   Iphis  attends  church,  and  sees   there  a  nevv- 


'  Those  of  my  readers  who  wish  to  see  the  various  fashions  in  dress  of 
the  end  of  the  seventeenth  century  should  look  at  the  etchings  at  the  head 
of  each  chapter,  which  faithfully  represent  them  at  the  time  La  Bruyfere 
wrote  ;  the  high  head-dresses  had  been  abandoned  when  he  penned  this 
paragraph  (1691),  but  they  became  again  the  rage  the  following  year 
(see  Chapter  iv.,  "Of  Women,"  §  5),  and  continued  so  for  a  considerable 
period. 


390  OF    FASHION. 

fashioned  shoe;  he  looks  upon  his  own  with  a  blush, 
and  no  longer  believes  he  is  well  dressed.  He  only  comes 
to  hear  mass  to  show  himself,  but  now  he  refuses  to  go 
out,  and  keeps  his  room  all  day  on  account  of  his  foot. 
He  has  a  soft  hand,  which  he  preserves  so  by  scented 
paste,  laughs  often  to  show  his  teeth,  purses  up  his 
mouth,  and  is  perpetually  smiling ;  he  looks  at  his  legs 
and  surveys  himself  in  the  glass,  and  no  man  can 
have  a  better  opinion  of  his  personal  appearance  than, 
he  has ;  he  has  adopted  a  clear  and  delicate  voice,  but 
fortunately  lisps  ;  ^  he  moves  his  head  about  and  has  a  sort 
of  sweetness  in  his  eyes  which  he  does  not  forget  to  use  to 
set  himself  off;  his  gait  is  indolent,  and  his  attitudes  are 
as  pretty  as  he  can  contrive  them  ;  he  sometimes  rouges 
his  face,  but  not  very  often,  and  does  not  do  so  habitually. 
In  truth,  he  always  wears  breeches  and  a  hat,  but  neither 
earrings  nor  a  pearl  necklace  ;  therefore  I  have  not  given 
him  a  place  in  my  chapter  "  Of  Women." 

(15.)  Those  very  fashions  which  men  so  willingly 
adopt  to  adorn  themselves  are  apt  to  be  laid  aside  when 
their  portraits  are  taken,  as  if  they  felt  and  foresaw  how 
crude  ^  and  ridiculous  these  would  look  when  they  had 
lost  the  bloom  and  charm  of  novelty ;  they  prefer  to  be 
depicted  with  some  fancy  ornaments,  some  imaginary 
drapery,  just  as  it  pleases  the  artist,  and  which  often  are 
as  little  suited  to  their  air  and  face  as  they  recall  their 
character  and  personage.  They  affect  strained  or  in- 
decent  attitudes,  harsh,  uncultivated,  and  foreign  manners, 
which  transform  a  young  abbd  into  a  swaggerer,  and  a 

1  In  the  original  tl  parte  gras  ;  parler  gras  means  usually  "  to  speak 
thick,"  but  is  sometimes  said,  as  it  is  here,  of  people  who  lisp,  which 
generally  in  French  is  grasseyer. 

2  In  the  original  indicence,  "crudeness,"'  ''want  of  harmony,"  now 
antiquated  with  this  meaning. 


OF    FASHION.  391 

magistrate  into  a  swashbuckler,  a  Diana  into  a  woman 
of  the  town,  an  amazon  or  a  Pallas  into  a  simple  and 
timid  woman,  a  Lais  into  a  respectable  girl,  and  a 
Scythian,  an  Attila,^  into  a  just  and  magnanimous 
prince. 

Such  is  our  giddiness,  that  one  fashion  has  hardly  de- 
stroyed another,  when  it  is  driven  away  by  a  newer  one, 
again  to  make  way  for  its  successor,  which  will  not  be 
the  last.  Whilst  these  changes  are  going  on,  a  century 
elapses,  and  all  these  gewgaws  are  ranked  amongst  things 
of  the  past,  and  exist  no  longer.  Then  the  oldest  fashion 
becomes  again  the  most  elegant,  and  charms  the  eye 
the  most,  it  pleases  as  much  in  portraits  as  the  sagutn 
or  the  Roman  dress  on  the  stage,  as  a  long  black  veil,  an 
ordinary  veil,  and  a  tiara  2  do  on  our  hangings  and  our 
pictures. 

Our  fathers  have  transmitted  to  us  the  history  of  their 
lives  as  well  as  a  knowledge  of  their  dresses,  their  arms,^ 
and  their  favourite  ornaments  ;  a  benefit  for  which  we 
can  make  no  other  return  than  by  doing  our  posterity 
the  same  service. 

(16.)  Formerly  a  courtier  wore  his  own  hair,  breeches, 
and  doublet,  as  well  as  large  canions,*  and  was  a  free- 
thinker ;  *  but  this  is  no  longer  becoming  j  now  he  wears 


1  Attila,  king  of  the  Huns,  died  453. 

2- The  "  long  black  veil,"  coming  down  to  the  feet,  worn  by  ladies  in 
mourning,  and  during  some  grand  ceremonies,  was  called  a  tnante.  Our 
author  adds  in  a  note  :  "  Oriental  habits."  The  tiara,  or  triple  crown,  was 
the  head-dress  of  the  ancient  Persian  potentates,  of  the  Jewish  high  priest, 
and  of  the  Pope.     For  the  sagicm,  see  page  259,  note  i. 

3  The  author  says  in  a  note  :   "  Offensive  and  defensive." 

4  Canions,  ox  canons  in  French,  were  large  round  pieces  of  linen,  often 
adorned  with  lace  or  bunches  of  ribbons,  which  were  fastened  below  the 
breeches,  just  under  the  knee. 

*  Libertin  in  the  original.     See  page  i6i,  note. 


392  OF    FASHION. 

a  wig,  a  tight  suit,  plain  stockings,  and  is  devout.  All 
this  because  it  is  the  fashion. 

(17.)  Any  man  who,  after  having  dwelt  for  a  consider- 
able time  at  court,  remains  devout,  and  contrary  to  all 
reason,  narrowly  escapes  being  thought  ridiculous,  can 
never  flatter  himself  with  becoming  the  fashion, 

(18.)  What  will  not  a  courtier  do  for  the  sake  of  ad- 
vancing his  interests  ?  Rather  than  not  advance  them 
he  will  turn  pious.  ^ 

(19.)  The  colours  are  all  prepared,  and  the  canvas 
is  stretched,  but  how  shall  I  fix  this  restless,  giddy,  and 
variable  man,  who  adopts  so  many  thousand  different 
shapes  ?  I  depict  him  as  devout,  and  I  think  I  have 
caught  his  likeness  ;  but  I  have  missed  it,  and  he  is 
already  a  freethinker.  Let  him  remain  even  in  this 
bad  position,  and  I  shall  succeed  in  portraying  his 
irregularity  of  heart  and  mind  so  that  he  will  be  known  ; 
but  another  fashion  is  in  vogue,  and  again  he  becomes 
devout. 

(20.)  A  man  who  thoroughly  knows  the  court  is  well 
aware  what  virtue  and  what  piety  is  ;  ^  there  is  no  im- 
posing upon  him. 

(21.)  To  neglect  going  to  vespers  as  obsolete  and 
not  fashionable  ;  to  keep  one's  place  for  morning  ser- 
vice ;  to  know  all  the  ins  and  outs  of  the  chapel  at 
Versailles,  and  who  sits  in  the  seats  next  ^  to  the  royal 
tribune,  and  what  is  the  best  place  where  a  man  can 
be  seen  or  remain  unobserved  ;  to  be  thinking  at  church 

1  It  was  two  years  after  the  revocation  of  the  Edict  of  Nantes  (1685)  that 
La  Bruyere  made  these  remarks  about  "pretended  piety,"  for  since  the  in- 
fluence of  Madame  de  Maintenon  over  Louis  XIV.,  all  the  courtiers  were 
turning  pious.     See  also  page  207,  note  3. 

2  Our  author  is  careful  to  add  in  a  note,  "  assumed  piety." 

3  Connaitre  le  JIanc  is  used  by  La  Bruyere.  Some  of  the  commentators 
think  this  is  a  military  term  used  purposely  by  our  author. 


OF    FASHION.  393 

of  God  and  business  ;  to  receive  visits  there ;  to  order 
people  about  and  send  them  on  messages  or  wait  for 
answers ;  to  trust  more  to  the  advice  of  a  spiritual 
director  than  to  the  teachings  of  the  Gospel ;  to  derive 
all  sanctity  and  notoriety  from  the  reputation  of  our 
director ;  to  despise  all  people  whose  director  is  not 
fashionable,  and  scarcely  allow  them  to  be  in  a  state  of 
salvation;  to  like  the  word  of  God  only  when  preached 
at  home  or  from  the  mouth  of  our  own  director ;  to  prefer 
hearing  a  mass  said  by  him  to  any  other  mass,  and  the 
sacraments  administered  by  him  to  any  others,  which 
are  considered  of  less  value ;  to  satiate  ourselves  with 
mystical  books,  as  if  there  were  neither  Gospels,  Epistles 
of  the  Apostles,  nor  morals  of  the  fathers  ;  to  read  or 
speak  a  jargon  unknown  in  the  early  centuries  ;  ^  to  be 
very  circumstantial  in  amplifying  the  sins  of  others  and 
in  palliating  our  own  ;  to  enlarge  on  our  own  sufferings 
and  patience  ;  to  lament  our  small  progress  in  heroism 
as  a  sin  ;  to  be  in  a  secret  alliance  with  some  persons 
against  others;  to  value  only  ourselves  and  our  own 
set;  to  suspect  even  virtue  itself;  to  enjoy  and  relish 
prosperity  and  favour,  and  to  wish  to  keep  them  only 
for  ourselves  ;  never  to  assist  merit ;  to  make  piety  sub- 
servient to  ambition ;  to  obtain  our  salvation  through 
fortune  and  dignities  ;  these  are,  at  least  in  our  days,  the 
greatest  efforts  of  the  piety  of  this  age. 

A  pious  person  2   is   one   who,  under  an  atheistical 
king,  would  be  an  atheist. 

1  None  of  La  Bruyere's  commentators  have  observed  that  the  "  unknown 
jargon  "  seems  to  refer  to  the  mystic  quietism  taught  by  Jeanne-Marie 
Bouvier|de  la  Motte-Guyon  (1648-1717),  who  was  at  the  height  of  her  reputa- 
tion when  this  paragraph  was  published  for  the  first  time  in  the  eighth 
edition  of  the  "Characters"  in  1694.  To  our  author  has  also  been 
attributed  "Dialogues  sur  le  Quietisme." 

2  La  Bruy^re  is  always  very  careful  when  he  uses  the  word  "devout" 


394  OF    FASHION. 

(22.)  Devout  people  know  no  other  crime  but  incon- 
tinence, or,  to  speak  more  exactly,  the  scandal  and 
appearance  of  incontinence.  If  Pherecides  passes  for 
a  man  who  is  cured  of  his  fondness  for  women,  or 
Pherenicia  for  a  wife  who  is  faithful  to  her  husband,  they 
are  quite  satisfied  ;  allow  these  devotees  to  continue  a 
game  that  finally  will  be  their  undoing;  it  is  their  busi- 
ness to  ruin  their  creditors,  to  rejoice  at  the  misfortunes 
of  other  people  and  take  advantage  of  it,  to  idolise  the 
great,  to  despise  their  inferiors,  to  get  intoxicated  with 
their  own  merit,  to  pine  away  with  vexation,  to  he, 
slander,  intrigue,  and  do  as  much  harm  as  they  can. 
Would  you  like  them  to  usurp  the  functions  of  those 
honest  men  ^  who  avoid  pride  and  injustice  as  well  as 
the  more  latent  vices  ? 

(23.)  When  a  courtier  shall  be  humble,  divested  of 
pride  and  ambition,  cease  to  advance  his  own  interests 
by  ruining  his  rivals,  be  just  and  relieve  the  misery  of 
his  vassals,  pay  his  creditors,  be  neither  a  knave  nor  a 
slanderer,  shall  abandon  luxurious  feasting  and  unlaw- 
ful amours,  pray  not  only  with  his  lips,  and  even  when  the 
prince  is  not  present,  shall  not  be  morose  and  inaccessible, 
not  show  an  austere  countenance  and  a  sour  mien,  shall 
not  be  lazy  and  buried  in  thought,  reconcile  a  multipli- 
city of  employments  by  conscientious  application,  shall 
be  able  and  willing  to  devote  his  whole  mind  and  all 
his  attention  to  those  great  and  arduous  affairs  which 
especially  concern  the  welfare  of  the  people  and  of  the 
entire  state  ;  when  his  character  shall  make  me  afraid 
of  mentioning  him  in  this  paragraph,  and  his  modesty 

or  "pious,"  in  a  bad  sense,  to  add  in  a  note,  "assumed "or  "false  piety." 
See  also  §  22. 
'   See  page  43,  note  2. 


OF    FASHION.  395 

prevent  him  from  knowing  himself,  if  I  should  not  give 
his  name ;  then  I  shall  say  of  such  a  man  that  he  is 
devout,  or  rather  that  he  is  a  man  given  to  this  age  as 
an  example  of  sincere  virtue  as  well  as  to  detect  hypo- 
crites. ^ 

(24.)  Onuphrius'  bed  2  has  only  grey  serge  valances, 
but  he  sleeps  on  flock  and  down ;  he  also  wears  plain 
but  comfortable  clothes,  I  mean,  made  of  a  light  material 
in  summer,  and  of  very  soft  cloth  in  winter  ;  his  body- 
linen  is  very  fine,  but  he  takes  very  good  care  not  to 
show  it ;  he  does  not  call  out  for  his  "hair-shirt  and 
scourge,"  ^  for  then  he  would  show  himself  in  his  true 
colours,  as  a  hypocrite,  whilst  he  intends  to  pass  for 
what  he  is  not,  for  a  religious  man  ;  however,  he  acts 
in  such  a  way  that  people  believe,  without  his  telling  it 
them,  that  he  wears  a  hair-shirt  and  scourges  himself. 
Several  books  lie  about  his  apartments,  such  as  the 
"  Spiritual  Fight,"  the  "  Inward  Christian,"  the  "  Holy 
Year ; "  *  his  other  books  are  under  lock  and  key  ;  if  he 
goes  along  the  streets  and  perceives  from  afar  a  man  to 
whom  he  ought  to  seem  devout,  downcast  looks,  a  slow 
and   demure  gait,  and   a  contemplative  air  are   at  his 

J  This  "  devout  courtier"  was  Paul  de  Beauvillier,  Duke  de  Saint-Aignan, 
peer  of  France,  ^ovvertteur  des  en/ants  de  France.  See  also  page  197, 
note  2. 

2  Sainte-Beuve,  in  his  Histoire  de  Port  Royal,  justly  observes  that  I^ 
Bruyere  showed  more  courage  in  writing  the  character  of  Onuphrius  than 
Moliere  displayed  in  bringing  out  his  Tariuffe,  for  the  latter  comedy  made 
its  appearance  in  1667, and  Oiiuphriusin  1691,  five  years  after  the  revocation 
of  the  Edict  of  Nantes,  when  Louis  XIV.  was  already  under  the  influence 
of  Madame  de  Maintenon,  and  had  become  devout. 

3  An  allusion  to  the  first  words  said  by  Tartuffe  (act  iii.  scene  2)  in 
Moliere's  play  of  that  name  :  "  Laurent,  serrez  ma  haireavec  ma  discipline." 

*  The  "  Spiritual  Fight,"  a  religious  work  attributed  to  an  Italian 
Theatine  monk,  Scupoli,  had  been  already  translated  into  French  in 
1608;  the  "Inward  Christian,"  by  Louvigny,  was  published  in  1661, 
whilst  there  were  two  "  Holy  Years,"  one  Written  by  Bordier  in  1668,  and 
a  second  published  ten  years  later  by  a  certain  clergyman,  Loisel. 


396  OF   FASHION. 

command  ;  he  plays  his  part.  If  he  enters  a  church,  he 
observes  whose  eyes  are  upon  him,  and  accordingly 
kneels  down  and  prays,  or  else,  never  thinks  of  kneel- 
ing down  and  praying ;  if  he  sees  an  honest  man 
and  a  man  of  authority  approach  him,  by  whom  he  is 
sure  to  be  perceived,  and  who,  perhaps,  may  hear  him, 
he  not  only  prays  but  meditates,  has  outbursts  of 
devotion,  and  sighs  aloud ;  but  as  soon  as  this  honest 
man  is  gone,  he  becomes  calm,  and  does  not  say  a  single 
word  more.  Another  time  he  enters  a  chapel,  rushes 
through  the  crowd,  and  chooses  a  spot  to  commune  with 
himself,  and  where  everybody  may  see  how  he  humbles 
himself;  ^  if  he  hears  any  courtiers  speaking  or  laughing 
loud,  and  behave  in  chapel  more  boisterously  than 
they  would  in  an  ante-chamber, ^  he  makes  a  greater 
noise  than  they  to  silence  them,  and  returns  to  his 
meditations,  in  which  he  always  disdainfully  compares 
those  persons  to  himself,  to  his  own  advantage.  He 
avoids  an  empty  church  where  he  could  hear  two  masses 
one  after  another,  as  well  as  a  sermon,  vespers,  and 
compline,  with  no  one  between  God  and  himself,  without 
any  other  witnesses,  and  without  any  one  thanking  him 
for  it ;  but  he  likes  his  own  parish,  and  frequents  those 
churches  where  the  greatest  number  of  people  congregate, 
for  there  he  does  not  labour  in  vain  and  is  observed. 
He  chooses  two  or  three  days  of  the  year  to  fast  in  or 

1  In  the  original,  il  pousse  des  elans  et  des  soupirs,  a  reminiscence  of 
Moliere's  Tartuffe  (act  i.  scene  5),  where  Orgon,  in  speaking  of  the  hypo- 
crite, says  : 

"  II  attirait  les  yeux  de  I'assemblee  entiere 
Par  I'ardeur  dont  au  ciel  il  poussait  sa  priere  ; 
II  faisait  des  soupirs,  de  grands  elancements, 
Et  baisait  humblement  la  terre  a  tous  moments." 

2  The  "chapel  "  and  the  "anteroom"  refer  to  the  chapel  and  anteroom 
of  the  palace  of  Versailles. 


Of    FASHION.  397 

to  abstain  from  meat,  without  any  occasion ;  but  at  the 
end  of  the  winter  he  coughs  ;  there  is  something  wrong 
with  his  chest,  he  is  more  or  less  splenetic,^  and 
feels  very  feverish ;  people  entreat  him,  urge  him,  and 
even  quarrel  with  him  to  compel  him  to  break  his  fast 
as  soon  as  it  has  begun,  and  he  obeys  them  out  of 
politeness.  If  Onuphrius  is  chosen  as  an  umpire  by 
relatives  who  have  quarrelled,  or  in  a  lawsuit  amongst 
members  of  one  and  the  same  family,  he  always  takes 
the  side  of  the  strongest,  I  mean  the  wealthiest,  and 
cannot  be  convinced  that  any  person  of  property  can 
ever  be  in  the  wrong.  If  he  is  comfortable  at  the  house 
of  a  rich  man  whom  he  can  deceive,  whose  parasite  he 
is,  and  from  whom  he  may  derive  great  advantages,  he 
never  cajoles  his  patron's  wife,  nor  makes  the  least 
advances  to  her,  nor  declares  his  love ;  ^  but  rather 
avoids  her,  and  will  leave  his  cloak  behind,^  unless  he 
is  as  sure  of  her  as  he  is  of  himself ;  still  less  will  he 
make  use  of  devotional  *  cant  to  flatter  and  seduce  her, 
for  he  does  not  employ  it  habitually,  but  intentionally, 
when  it  suits  him,  and  never  when  it  would  only  make 
him  ridiculous.  He  knows  where  to  find  ladies  more 
sociable  and  pliable  than  his  friend's  wife  ;  and  very 
seldom  absents  himself  from  these  ladies  for  any  length 
of  time,  if  it  were  only  to  have  it  publicly  stated  that  he 
has  gone  into  religious  retirement ;  for  who  can  doubt 
the  truth  of  this  report,  when  people  see  him  reappear 
quite  emaciated,  like  one  who  has  not  spared  himself? 


1  Ila  des  vapeurs  in  the  original,  which,  when  our  author  wrote,  was 
somewhat  like  the  "  out  of  sorts"  of  the  present  time. 

'  A  reference  to  the  declaration  Tartuflfe  makes  to  Elmire,  the  wife  of 
Orgon.     See  Moliere's  Tartuffe,  act  iii.  scene  3. 

•*  An  allusion  to  Joseph's  adventure' with  Potiphar's  wife. 

*  La  Bruyere  is  very  careful  to  add  again  in  a  note  :  "False  piety." 


398  OF    FASHION. 

Moreover,  those  women  who  improve  and  thrive  under 
the  shelter  of  piety  ^  suit  him,  but  with  this  trifling 
difference,  that  he  neglects  those  who  are  declining  in 
years,  and  courts  the  young,  and  amongst  these  is  only 
attracted  by  the  best  looking  and  the  finest  shape ;  he 
goes  where  they  go,  and  returns  when  they  return,  and 
if  they  stay  anywhere  he  stays  there  also ;  he  has  the 
consolation  of  seeing  them  at  all  times  and  places,  and 
nobody  needs  be  shocked  about  this,  for  they  are  devout, 
and  so  is  he.  Onuphrius  is  sure  to  make  the  best  use 
he  can  of  his  friend's  cecity  and  of  his  prepossession ; 
sometimes  he  borrows  money  of  him  ;  at  other  times  he 
acts  so  artfully  that  his  friend  offers  to  lend  him  some ; 
people  are  very  angry  with  him  because  he  does  not 
apply  to  his  other  friends  when  he  needs  money ;  now 
and  then  he  refuses  to  receive  a  small  sum  unless  he  gives 
his  note  of  hand  for  it,  though  he  is  quite  certain  never 
to  take  it  up ;  at  another  time  he  says,  with  a  certain 
air,  he  is  not  in  want  of  anything,  and  that  is,  when  he 
only  needs  a  trifling  amount ;  and  on  a  certain  occasion 
he  publicly  extols  the  generosity  of  his  friend,  on  purpose 
to  induce  him  to  give  him  a  considerable  sum.  He  does 
not  expect  to  succeed  to  the  whole  of  the  real  estate  of 
his  friend,  nor  to  get  a  deed  of  gift  of  all  his  property, 
especially  if  the  son,  the  right  and  lawful  heir,  has  to  be 
set  aside.2  A  pious  man  is  neither  a  miser,  nor  pre- 
judiced, unjust,  nor  selfish ;  and,  though  Onuphrius  is 
not  a   pious  man,  he  wishes  to  be  thought  one,  and 

1  Again  our  author  adds  "  false  piety,"  in  a  footnote. 

2  Tartuflfe,  in  the  comedy  of  that  name  (act  iii.).  obtains  from  Orgon  a 
deed  of  gift  of  all  his  property,  to  the  detriment  of  his  son  and  his  second 
wife.  This  was  against  the  French  law,  which  obliged  a  man  to  leave  a 
certain  part  of  his  goods,  called  la  legitime  (see  page  9s,  §  71),  to  his 
wife  and  children ;  but  this  law  did  not  apply  to  cousins,  nephews,  and 
nieces. 


OF   FASHION.  399 

perfectly  to  imitate  piety,  though  he  does  not  feel  it,  in 
order  secretly  to  forward  his  interests ;  he,  therefore, 
would  never  aim  at  robbing  the  direct  heirs  of  any 
family,  nor  insinuate  himself  where  there  is  a  daughter 
to  portion,  and  a  son  to  establish ;  ^  he  knows  their 
rights  are  too  strong  and  inviolable  to  be  upset  without 
loud  clamours,  which  he  dreads,  and  without  such  an 
undertaking  coming  to  the  ears  of  the  prince,^  from 
whom  he  conceals  his  intrigues  for  fear  of  his  true 
character  being  discovered.  He  selects  collateral  heirs, 
whom  he  can  attack  with  greater  impunity,  and  is  the 
terror  of  male  and  female  cousins,  nephews  and  nieces, 
and  of  the  flatterers  and  professed  friends  of  all  rich 
uncles ;  he  gives  himself  out  to  be  the  legitimate  heir  of 
every  wealthy  old  man  who  dies  without  issue,  and  who 
will  have  to  disinherit  him,  if  he  wishes  his  relatives  to 
get  possession  of  his  estate.  If  Onuphrius  does  not  find 
means  ^  to  deprive  them  of  the  whole,  he  will,  at  least, 
rob  them  of  a  good  share  of  it ;  a  trifling  calumny  or 
even  the  slightest  slander  are  sufficient  for  this  pious 
purpose,  and,  indeed,  Onuphrius  is  a  perfect  master  of 
the  art  of  slandering,  and  considers  it  sometimes  his 
duty  not  to  let  it  lie  dormant,  for  there  are  men  and 
women  whom,  according  to  him,  he  must  decry  for 
conscience'  sake ;  and  these  are  the  people  he  does  not 
like,  whom  he  wishes  to  harm,  and  whose  spoils  he 
desires  to  get  hold  of.  He  compasses  his  ends  with- 
out so  much  as  opening  his  mouth ;  some  persons 
talk  to  him  of  Eudoxus,  he  smiles  or  he  weeps ;  they 


1  Orgon,  the  patron  of  Tartuffe,  has  a  son  and  a  daughter. 

2  See  Tartuffe^  act  v.  scene  7. 

3  The  original  has  ne  trouve  pas  Jour;  the  French  noun  has  become 
antiquated  in  thii  sense. 


400  OF    FASHION. 

ask  him  why  he  does  so,  and  they  ask  him  again  and 
again,  but  he  does  not  reply  ;  and  he  is  right,  for  he  has 
said  quite  enough. 

(25.)  '-Laugh,  Zelia,!  be  gay  and  froUcsome  as  you 
used  to  be.  What  has  become  of  your  mirth  ?  "  "  I  am 
wealthy,"  you  reply,  "  I  can  do  as  I  please,  and  I  begin 
to  breathe  freely."  "  Laugh  louder,  Zelia,  and  louder 
still ;  what  is  the  use  of  more  riches  if  it  makes  you 
thoughtful  and  sad  ?  Imitate  the  great,  who  are  born  in 
the  lap  of  luxury ;  they  laugh  sometimes,  and  yield 
to  their  inclination ;  follow  therefore  yours,  and  do  not 
let  it  be  said  that  a  new  place,  or  a  few  thousand  livres 
a  year  more  or  less,  drive  you  from  one  extreme  to 
another."  "  I  only  value  favour  because  I  can  be 
thoughtful  and  sad,"  you  answer.  "  I  thought  so, 
Zelia ;  but,  believe  me,  do  not  leave  off  laughing,  and 
smile  on  me,  when  I  pass,  as  you  did  formerly  :  fear 
nothing ;  I  shall  not  have  a  worse  opinion  of  you  and 
your  post ;  I  shall  as  firmly  believe  that  you  are  wealthy 
and  a  favourite  as  well."  "  I  have  decided  religious 
opinions,"  you  answer.  "  That's  quite  enough,  Zelia  ; 
and  I  ought  to  remember  that  persons  whose  conscience 
is  at  rest  no  longer  care  to  show  a  calm  and  joyful 
countenance ;  gloomy  and  austere  feelings  are  in  the 
ascendancy  and  outwardly  displayed  ;  but  such  feelings 
proceed  still  further,  and  we  are  no  longer  surprised  to 
observe  that  piety  2  makes  a  woman  still  more  proud 
and  disdainful  than  beauty  and  youth." 

(26.)  Arts  and  sciences  have  been  greatly  improved 

1  According  to  some  commentators,  Zelia  was  intended  for  the  wife  of 
de  Pontchartrain,  the  cc«^r<?/^wr-^/>i^'ra/ of  the  finances  ;  but  they  seem  to 
forget  that  La  Bruyere  was  his  friend  and  under  some  obligations  to  him. 

2  In  this  and  the  following  paragraph  the  author  adds  again  in  a  note, 
"pretended  piety." 


OF    FASHION.  401 

during  this  century,  and  have  become  highly  refined ; 
even  salvation  has  now  been  reduced  to  rule  and  method, 
and  to  it  have  been  added  the  most  beautiful  and  sub- 
lime inventions  of  the  human  understanding.  Devotion 
and  geometry  have  each  their  own  phraseology,  or  what 
are  called  "  artistic  expressions,"  and  a  person  who 
ignores  them  is  neither  devout  nor  a  mathematician. 
The  first  devout  men,  even  those  who  were  taught  by 
the  apostles,  did  not  know  them ;  those  simple-minded 
people  only  had  faith,  practised  good  works,  merely 
believed,  and  led  righteous  lives. 

(27.)  It  is  a  delicate  thing  for  a  prince  to  reform  his 
court  and  to  introduce  piety  ;^  for  knowing  to  what 
extent  courtiers  will  carry  their  complaisance,  and  that 
they  will  make  any  sacrifices  to  advance  their  interests, 
he  manages  them  with  prudence,  bears  with  them  and 
dissembles,  lest  they  should  be  driven  to  hypocrisy  or 
sacrilege ;  he  expects  that  Providence  and  time  will  be 
more  successful  than  his  zeal  and  his  activity  are. 

(28.)  Already  in  ancient  times  courts  granted  pensions 
and  bestowed  favours  on  musicians,  dancing-masters, 
buffoons,  flute-players,  flatterers,  and  sycophants  ;  they 
possess  undoubted  merits,  and  their  talents  are  recog- 
nised and  well  known,  for  they  amuse  the  great  and 
give  them  a  little  breathing-time  during  the  intervals  of 
grandeur.  It  is  well  known  that  Fabien  is  a  fine  dancer, 
and  that  Lorenzani  2  composes  beautiful  anthems;  but 
who  can  tell  if  a  pious  man  be  really  virtuous  ?     There 


1  Already  in  the  first  edition  of  the  "  Characters  "  (1687),  La  Bruyere 
gave  in  the  above  paragraph  his  opinion  about  the  danger  of  compelling  the 
courtiers  to  become  pious. 

2  Favier,  a  dancer  at  the  opera,  was  also  the  dancing-master  of  the  Duke 
de  Bourbon,  the  pupil  of  La  Bruyere.  The  anthems  of  Paolo  Lorenzani, 
the  music-master  of  Ann  of  Austria  (1601-1666),  were  published  in  1693. 

2   C 


402  OF    FASHION. 

is  no  pension  to  be  got  for  him  from  the  king's  private 
purse,  nor  from  the  public  treasury ;  and  this  is  quite 
right,  for  piety  is  easy  to  counterfeit ;  and  if  it  were 
rewarded,  it  would  expose  the  prince  to  honour  dis- 
simulation and  knavery,  and  to  pension  a  hypocrite. 

(29.)  It  is  to  be  hoped  the  piety  of  the  court,  such  as 
it  is,  will  at  least  oblige  prelates  to  reside  in  their 
dioceses.^ 

(30.)  I  am  convinced  that  true  piety  is  the  source  from 
which  repose  flows  ;  it  renders  life  bearable  and  death 
without  sting ;  hypocrisy  does  not  possess  such  advan- 
tages. 

(31.)  Every  hour  in  itself,  and  in  respect  to  us,  is 
unique ;  when  once  it  is  gone,  it  is  entirely  lost,  and 
millions  of  ages  will  not  bring  it  back  again ;  days, 
months,  and  years,  are  swallowed  up  and  irrevocably 
lost  in  the  abyss  of  time  ;  time  itself  shall  be  destroyed  ; 
it  is  but  a  point  in  the  immense  space  of  eternity,  and 
will  be  erased.  There  are  several  slight  and  frivolous 
periods  of  time  which  are  unstable,  pass  away,  and  may 
be  called  fashions,  such  as  grandeur,  favour,  riches, 
power,  authority,  independence,  pleasure,  joy  and  super- 
fluities. What  will  become  of  such  fashions  when  time 
itself  shall  have  disappeared  ?  Virtue  alone,  now  so 
little  in  fashion,  will  last  longer  than  time. 

1  Many  of  the  bishops  in  our  author's  time  were  continually  dangling 
about  the  court,  and  not  residing  in  their  dioceses.     See  page  340,  note  2. 


XV. 


OF  CERTAIN  CUSTOMS. 

(i.)  ^ERTAIN  people  want  a  fortune  to  become 
ennobled,! 

Some  of  these  would  have  been  ennobled  ^  if  they 
could  have  put  off  their  creditors  half  a  year  longer. 

Others,  again,  are  commoners  when  they  lay  down, 
and  rise  noblemen. ^ 


1  Our  author  added  in  a  note  of  the  first  four  editions,  "  secretaries  of  the 
king."  Those  offices  were  bought,  and  ennobled  their  holders,  hence  the 
mckmLXMof  savonnettes  avilain,  literally,  "soap  balk  for  serfs."  Other 
offices  also  gave  a  title  to  the  persons  who  filled  them,  and  this  is  probably 
the  reason  of  the  suppression  of  this  note. 

2  La  Bruyere's  own  note  says  "  veterans,"  a  name  given  to  the  con- 
seilUrs  (see  page  i8i.  note  i),  who,  after  having  practised  for  twenty  years, 
sold  their  post,  but  retained  all  the  privileges  attached  to  it. 

>  Here  our  author  gives  the  same  note  as  above. 


404  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

How  many  noblemen  are  there  whose  relatives  are 
commoners  ? 

(2.)  Some  man  disowns  his  father,  who  is  known  to 
keep  an  office  or  a  shop,  and  only  mentions  his  grand- 
father, who  has  been  dead  this  long  time,  is  unknown 
and  cannot  be  found  now  ;  he  enjoys  a  large  income, 
has  a  grand  post,  great  connections,  and  wants  nothing 
but  a  title  to  become  a  nobleman. 

(3.)  Formerly  the  words  "granting  letters  of  no- 
bility "  were  considered  good  French  and  habitually 
employed,  but  now  they  have  become  antiquated  and  out 
of  date,  and  the  courts  of  justice  use  the  word  "  rehabilita- 
tion.i  To  rehabilitate  supposes  a  wealthy  man  to  be  of 
noble  descent, — for  it  is  absolutely  requisite  he  should 
be  so, — and  also  his  father  to  have  forfeited  the  title  by 
ploughing,  digging,  by  becoming  a  pedlar,  or  by  having 
been  a  lackey  ;  it  also  supposes  that  the  son  only  desires 
to  be  restored  to  the  rights  of  his  ancestors,  and  to  wear 
the  coat  of  arms  his  family  always  wore,  though, 
perhaps,  one  of  his  own  invention,  and  quite  different 
from  that  on  his  old  pewter  ware ;  thus  the  granting 
of  letters  of  nobility  does  not  apply  to  his  case,  for  they 
only  confer  an  honour  on  a  commoner,  that  is,  on  a  man 
who  has  not  yet  discovered  the  secret  of  becoming 
rich. 

(4.)  A  man  of  the  people,  by  often  affirming  he  was 
present  when  some  prodigy  happened,  persuades  himself 

1  Commoners  were  ennobled  by  the  grant  of  letters  of  nobility,  whilst 
nobles  whose  ancestors  had  derogated  were  rehabilitated.  However, 
commoners  who  had  become  wealthy  often  asked  and  obtained  letters  of 
rehabilitation,  and,  therefore,  pretended  to  be  of  noble  origin.  "  Rehabili- 
tation," according  to  Thomas  Blount's  Law  Dictionary,  1717,  was  in  Eng- 
land :  "  one  of  those  exactions  .  .  .  claimed  by  the  Pope  .  .  .  and  seems 
to  signify  a  Bull  or  Breve  for  re-enabling 3l  spiritual  person  to  exercise  his 
function,  who  was  formerly  disabled  ;  or  a  restoring  to  former  ability.  " 


OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  405 

that  he  has  really  seen  it ;  another  person,  by  concealing 
his  age,  comes  to  believe  at  last  he  is  as  young  as  he 
would  be  thought ;  and  thus  a  commoner,  who  habitually 
asserts  he  is  descended  from  some  ancient  baron,  or  from 
some  noble  lord,  has  the  ideal  pleasure  of  fancying  him- 
self of  such  illustrious  descent. 

(5.)  What  man  is  there,  however  meanly  bom,  who 
having  acquired  some  fortune,  can  be  in  want  of  a  coat  of 
arms,  and  with  this  coat,  heraldic  devices  of  the  highest 
rank,  a  crest,  supporters,  a  motto,  and  perhaps  a  war-cry  ? 
What  is  become  of  the  distinction  between  head-pieces 
and  helmets  ?  They  are  no  longer  in  use  and  not  even 
mentioned ;  it  does  no  more  matter  if  they  are  worn  in 
front  or  profile,  open  or  closed,  and  with  more  or  less 
bars  ;  such  niceties  are  out  of  date  ;  coronets  are  worn, 
which  is  far  simpler,  for  people  think  they  deserve 
wearing  them,  and,  therefore,  bestow  them  on  them- 
selves. Some  of  the  better  sort  of  citizens  have  still  a 
little  shamefacedness  left  which  prevents  them  using  the 
coronet  of  a  marquess,  and  they  content  themselves  with 
an  earl's,  whilst  a  few  do  not  even  go  a  long  way  for 
their  coat  of  arms,  but  take  it  from  their  sign-boards  to 
put  it  on  their  carriages.^ 

(6.)  Provided  a  person  is  not  born  in  a  city,  but  in 
some  lonely  thatched  house  in  the  country,  or  in  some 
ruins  in  the  midst  of  marshes,  dignified  with  the  name 

1  The  "  war-cry  "  is  a  great  proof  of  the  nobility  being  ancient.  The 
heaume,  head-piece,  is  the  same  as  the  casque,  helmet,  which  latter  word 
was  generally  used  in  French  heraldic  language.  According  to  certain  rules 
which  soon  ceased  to  be  practised,  the  vizard  was  open  or  shut,  and  showed 
more  or  less  bars,  whilst  the  helmet  was  in  front  or  profile,  according  as  the 
owner  of  the  coat  of  arms  was  of  ancient  or  modern  nobility.  The  "  Keys  '' 
refer  to  the  Le  Camus  and  Bezons  families,  as  having  taken  the  pictorial 
emblems  of  their  father's  signboards  for  their  family  arms.  See  also 
Moliere's  Ecole  des  Femmes,  Act  i.  Scene  i. 


4o6  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

of  castle,  he  will  be  taken  for  a  nobleman  upon  his  own 
affirmation. 

(7.)  A  man  of  noble  descent  wishes  to  pass  for  a 
small  lord,  and  he  compasses  his  end  ;  a  great  lord 
pretends  to  be  a  prince,  and  employs  so  many  pre- 
cautions that,  thanks  to  some  fine  appellations,  quarrels 
about  rank  and  precedence,  and  a  genealogy  not  recog- 
nised by  D'Hozier,^  he  at  last  is  allowed  to  be  a  petty 
prince. 

(8.)  In  everything  great  men  mould  themselves,  and 
follow  the  example  of  people  of  higher  rank,  who,  on 
their  side,  that  they  may  have  nothing  in  common  with 
their  inferiors,  willingly  abandon  all  honorific  appella- 
tions and  distinctions  with  which  their  rank  is  burdened, 
and  instead  of  their  slavery  prefer  a  life  of  more  free- 
dom and  ease. 2  Those  who  follow  their  steps  vie  already 
to  observe  the  same  simplicity  and  modesty.  And  thus, 
through  a  feeling  of  pride,  all  will  condescend  to  live 
naturally  and  as  the  people  do.  How  horribly  incon 
venient  they  must  feel  ! 

(9.)  Some  people  are  so  fond  of  names  that  they 
have  three  for  fear  of  wanting  some  ;  one  for  the 
countr}',  another  for  the  town,  and  a  third  which  they 
use  when  on  duty  or  in  their  office ;  others  have  a 
dissyllabic  name  which  they  ennoble  by  the  particle 
"  du  "  or  "  de  "  as  soon  as  their  circumstances  improve  ; 
some,  again,   by  suppressing  a  syllable  make  a  name 

1  The  DHoziers  were  a  family  of  genealogists,  flourishing  from  1592  till 
1830.  La  Bruyere  speaks  most  probably  of  Louis  Roger  and  his  brother 
Charles-Rene  d'Hozier,  who  were  of  middle  age  when  the  "Characters" 
were  published. 

2  It  is  said  this  is  a  hit  at  Monsieur,  the  brother  of, Louis  XIV.,  who,  in 
imitation  of  the  king's  son  and  grandsons,  did  no  longer  wish  to  be 
addressed  as  "Royal  Highness,"  but  simply  as  "you;"  an  example 
followed  by  all  other  French  princes. 


OF   CERTAIN   CUSTOMS.  407 

illustrious  which  was  before  obscure  ;  by  changing  one 
letter  of  his  name  another  person  disguises  himself,  and  he 
who  formerly  was  Syrus  becomes  Cyrus.^  Many  suppress 
their  whole  names,  though  far  from  ignominious,  to 
adopt  others  which  sound  better,  and  by  which  they  get 
nothing  but  to  be  always  compared  to  the  great  men 
from  whom  those  names  are  borrowed.  Finally,  there 
are  some,  who,  though  bom  within  the  walls  of  Paris, 
pretend  to  be  Flemish  or  Italian,  as  if  every  country  had 
not  its  commoners,  lengthen  their  French  names,  and 
give  them  a  foreign  termination,  as  if  names  were  the 
better  for  being  far-fetched.2 

(10.)  The  want  of  money  has  reconciled  the  nobihty 
to  the  commoners,  and  put  an  end  to  all  disputes  about 
the  quartering  of  escutcheons.^ 

(11.)  How  many  persons  would  be  gainers  by  a  law 
which  should  decree  that  nobility  can  be  inherited  from 
the  mother's  side,  but  how  many  more  would  be  losers 
by  it.  4 

(12.)  There  are  few  families  but  who  are  related  to 
the  greatest  princes  as  well  as  to  the  common  people. 

(13.)  There  is  nothing  lost   by   being  a  nobleman; 

1  h  tnattre  d hdtel  oi 'Lonis  XIV.,  Delrieux,  is  said  to  have  called  him- 
self De  Rieux,  and  there  had  been  a  marshal  of  that  name.  Syris  is  the 
name  of  a  slave  in  Plautus'  and  Terence's  comedies ;  Cyrus,  a  celebrated 
king  of  Persia,  was  killed  in  battle  against  the  Massagetze,  529  B.C. 

2  Such  men  were  a  M.  Sonnin,  the  son  of  a  receveur-giniral,  who  called 
himself  M.  de  Sonningen,  and  M.  .Nicolai,  Marquis  de  Goussainville, 
descended  from  a  M.  Nicolas. 

3  The  marriages  of  the  Marquis  de  Tourville  with  a  Mdlle.  Langeois 
(see  page  142,  note  3),  and  of  the  Marshal  de  Lorges  with  Mdlle.  Fremont, 
(see  page  132,  note  i),  are  examples  of  this,  though  many  similar  marriages 
took  place  almost  daily. 

'*  An  ironical  remark  referring  to  noblemen  marrying  the  daughters  of 
commoners,  for  nobility  descended  only  from  the  father  to  the  children, 
but  not  if  the  mother  were  a  serf ;  in  Champagne,  however,  nobility  could  be 
inherited  from  the  mother's  side. 


4o8  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

those  who  have  a  title  neither  want  franchises,  immunities, 
exemptions,  privileges.  Do  you  think  it  was  purely  for 
the  pleasure  of  being  ennobled  that  certain  monks  have 
obtained  a  title  ?  They  are  not  so  foolish ;  it  is  only 
for  the  advantages  they  receive  from  it.  It  is,  after  all, 
much  better  than  to  get  money  by  having  an  interest  in 
farming  the  salt  tax,  and  that  not  alone  for  every 
individual  of  the  community,  for  it  is  against  their  vows, 
but  even  for  the  community  itself.^ 

(14.)  I  here  declare  openly  and  desire  all  men  to 
take  notice  of  it,  that  none  may  hereafter  be  surprised  : 
if  ever  any  great  man  will  think  me  worthy  of  his 
patronage,  if  ever  I  happen  to  make  my  fortune,  I  then 
shall  claim  descent  from  a  certain  Godfrey  de  la  Bruy^re, 
whom  all  chronicles  of  France  mention  as  one  of  the 
many  French  noblemen  of  the  highest  rank  who  followed 
Godfrey  of  Bouillon  to  conquer  the  Holy  Land.''^ 

(15.)  If  nobility  be  virtue,  a  flagitious  man  loses  his 
title  ;  and  if  it  be  not  virtue,  is  a  very  trifling  thing. 

(16.)  Certain  things  are  astonishing  and  incompre- 
hensible if  we  consider  their  principles  and  why  they 
were  established.  Who  could  imagine,  for  example, 
that  these  abbes  who  dress  and  are  as  effeminate  and 
vain  as  any  man  or  woman  of  rank  can  well  be,  and 

1  "  Franchise"  is  a  privilege  or  exemption  from  ordinary  jurisdiction,  and 
"immunity"  the  right  of  not  paying  taxes,  or  of  paying  less  than  the 
commonalty.  La  Bruyere,  in  speaking  of  "certain  monks  who  obtained 
titles,"  adds  in  a  note  :  "  a  certain  convent  was  secretary  to  the  king."  The 
convent  of  the  Celestines  had  already  in  the  fourteenth  century  been  appointed 
to  a  secretaryship,  and  received  its  emoluments,  but  never  fulfilled  its  duties. 
The  religious  community  said  to  have  had  an  interest  in  the  gabelle  or  salt 
tax,  is  supposed  to  have  been  that  of  the  Jesuits,  but  this  accusation  seems 
to  have  been  made  without  sufficient  proof. 

2  A  certain  Geoffrey  de  La  Bruj  ere  had  really  taken  part  in  the  third 
crusade  and  died  during  the  siege  of  St.  Jean  d'Acre  in  1191,  or  almost  acen- 
tury  after  Godfrey  of  Bouillon  (1061-1 100).  Our  author  only  mentioned  his  an- 
cestor's full  name  in  the  sixth  edition  of  the  "  Characters,"  published  in  1691. 


OF   CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  409 

who  vie  for  the  ladies'  favours  with  a  marquess  or  a 
financier,  and  defeat  them  both,  were  originally  and 
etymologically  the  fathers  and  heads  of  holy  monks  and 
humble  anchorites  to  whom  they  should  be  exemplars. 
How  powerful,  how  absolute,  how  tyrannical  is  custom  ! 
And,  not  to  mention  greater  irregularities,  is  it  not  to  be 
feared  that  one  day  or  other  some  young  abbds  will  figure 
in  grey-flowered  velvet  dresses  like  a  certain  cardinal,  or 
will  paint  and  wear  patches  like  women  ?  1 

(17.)  That  the  obscenities  of  the  gods,  the  Venus,  the 
Ganymede,  and  all  the  other  nudities  of  Carracci  are 
represented  on  pictures  painted  for  certain  princes  of  the 
Church  who  style  themselves  successors  of  the  apostles, 
may  be  proved  by  visiting  the  palace  of  the  Famese.2 

(18.)  A  thing,  however  handsome,  loses  somewhat  of 
its  beauty  by  being  out  of  place  ;  decorum  adds  a  certain 
perfection  and  is  based  on  reason  ;  thus  we  never  behold 
a  jig  danced  in  a  chapel,^  or  hear  stagey  elocution  in  the 
pulpit ;  whilst  no  profane  imagery  is  seen  in  churches, 
nor  a  crucifix  and  a  picture  of  the  Judgment  of  Paris  ^  in 

1  Abbih,  derived  from  the  Syrian  aba,  father;  the  "cardinal"  may  have 
been  the  Cardinal  de  Bouillon,  who  always  was  gaily  dressed.  See  page 
306,  note  I. 

2  In  the  palace  Famese  at  Rome,  built  by  order  of  the  Cardinal  Alexander 
Farnese,  who  afterwards  became  Pope  under  the  name  of  Paul  III.  (1534- 
1549)1  ■'"■c  to  be  found  many  works,  such  as  Aurora  and  Cephalus,  Diana 
and  Endymion,  Galathea,  Polyphemus  and  Acis,  and  Ganymedes  and 
Jupiter,  painted  by  Annibale  Carracci  (1560-1609),  and  Domenichino(i58i- 
1641),  all  representing  nude  figures,  and  not  religious  subjects. 

3  Richelet's  Dictionary,  published  in  1680,  mentions  the  l^gite  as  "  une 
danse  anglaise,  composee  de  toutes  sortes  de  pas,  qu'on  danse  sur  la  corde," 
and  hence,  he  continues,  "any  dancing  tune  was  thus  called."  But  was  a 
jig  originally  danced  on  the  tight-rope?  The  "chapel"  is  of  course  the 
chapel-royal  at  Versailles. 

*  Paris,  a  son  of  Priam  and  Hecuba,  had  to  decide  whether  Juno,  Venus, 
or  Minerva  was  the  most  beautiful,  and  should  receive  a  "golden  apple" 
as  a  prize.  The  three  goddesses  did  not  present  themselves  for  this  com- 
petition with  too  many  clothes  on. 


4IO  OF   CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

these  same  holy  places,  nor  the  dress  and  retinue  of  a 
military  man  in  a  churchman.^ 

(19.)  Shall  I  freely  declare  my  thoughts  about  what  the 
world  calls  a  fine  morning  choral  service,  decorations  often 
profane,  places  reserved  and  paid  for,  books  distributed 
as  in  the  theatre,^  frequent  assignations  and  interviews> 
deafening  murmurings  and  talk,  a  certain  person  mounted 
in  the  pulpit,  who  holds  forth  in  a  familiar  and  jejune 
manner,  without  any  other  ambition  than  to  get  the  people 
together  and  to  amuse  them  until  an  orchestra  begins  to 
play,  and,  shall  I  say  it,  until  singers  are  heard  who 
have  rehearsed  for  a  considerable  time  ?  Does  it  become 
me  to  exclaim  that  I  bum  with  zeal  for  the  Lord's  house  ? 
and  must  I  draw  aside  the  slender  curtain  which  covers 
those  mysteries,  witnesses  of  such  gross  indecencies  ? 
What  !  must  I  call  all  this  the  church  service  because 
they  do  not  yet  dance  at  the  TT  .  .  .  ^ 

(20.)  We  hear  of  no  vows  nor  pilgrimages  made  to 
any  saint,  in  order  to  attain  a  higher  degree  of  benignity, 
a  more  grateful  heart,  to  be  more  just  and  less  evil- 
doing,  and  to  be  cured  of  vanity,  restless  activity,  and 
a  propensity  for  buffoonery  ? 

(21.)  What  can  be  more  eccentric  than  for  a  number 
of  Christians  of  both  sexes  to  meet  on  certain  days  in  a 
large  room  to  applaud  and  reward  a  company  of  ex- 


1  Hangings  representing  nude  figures  and  profane  subjects  were  seen  until 
almost  the  last  fifty  years  in  some  of  the  churches  of  the  capital  of  France. 

2  Our  author  adds  in  a  notCi  "  an  anthem  translated  into  French  by 
LL  ..."  but  no  commentator  has  discovered  who  this  unknown  poet  can 
have  been. 

3  The  TT  .  .  .  were  theTheatine  monks,  who  settled  in  France  about  1644, 
built  a  splendid  church,  and  tried  to  raise  money  by  charging  for  seats, 
during  service,  which  was  held  with  full  orchestral  and  vocal  music,  about  ten 
years  before  our  author  first  published  this  paragraph,  in  1694,  in  the  eighth 
edition  of  his  book. 


OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  4H 

communicated  persons,  who  are  only  excommunicated 
for  the  very  pleasure  they  give,  and  for  which  already 
they  have  been  paid  beforehand  ?  Methinks  either  all 
theatres  should  be  shut  or  a  less  severe  anathema  be 
fulminated  against  actors. ^ 

(22.)  On  those  days  which  are  called  holy  a  monk 
confesses,  while  the  vicar  thunders  from  the  pulpit 
against  the  monk  and  his  followers.  A  pious  woman 
leaves  the  altar  and  then  hears  the  preacher  state  in  his 
sermon  that  she  has  committed  sacrilege.  Has  the 
church  no  power  either  to  make  a  clergyman  hold  his 
peace,  or  to  suspend  for  a  time  the  authority  of  a  Bar- 
nabite  ?  2 

(23.)  The  fees  in  a  parish  church  are  higher  for  a 
marriage  than  for  a  christening,  and  amount  to  more 
for  a  christening  than  for  confession ;  people  would 
think  them  a  tax  laid  upon  the  sacraments,  which 
seem  to  be  appreciated  ad  valorem ;  yet,  after  all,  this 
is  not  the  case ;  and  those  persons  who  receive  money 
for  these  holy  things  do  not  think  they  sell  them,  whilst 
those  who  pay  for  them  as  little  think  they  purchase 
them.  Such  an  appearance  of  evil  might  indeed  be 
avoided  as  well  for  the  sake  of  the  weak  as  for  that  of 
the  scoffers. 

(24.)  A  ruddy  and  quite  healthy-looking  parish 
priest,^    wearing    fine  linen   and   Venice  lace,  has   his 

1  AUhough  this  paragraph  appeared  when  the  "  Characters"  were  first 
published  in  1688,  yet  the  great  Bossuet  went,  five  years  later,  out  of  his  way 
to  attack,  in  a  sermon,  Moliere,  the  actor  and  playwright,  although  the  latter 
had  been  dead  more  than  twenty  years. 

-  This  paragraph  reveals  to  us  the  quarrels  raging  between  the  secular 
and  regular  clergy,  and  seems  to  point  out  that,  at  the  time  our  author 
wrote,  the  Barnabites  were  in  vogue  as  confessors.  The  "monk"  is  supposed 
to  have  been  a  certain  Father  la  Combe,  the  spiritual  director  of  Madame 
Guyon.     See  page  393,  note  i. 

•^  Three  parish  priests  have  been  named  by  the  commentators  as  the 


412  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

seat  in  church  near  the  cardinals  and  the  doctors  of 
divinity,!  where  he  finishes  to  digest  his  dinner,  whilst 
certain  Bernardine  or  Franciscan  monks  come  out  of 
their  cells  or  deserts  to  which  decency  and  their  own 
vows  should  confine  them,  to  preach  before  him  and  his 
flock,  and  to  be  paid  for  their  sermons  as  if  they  were 
vendible  commodities.  You  will  not  let  me  continue, 
and  you  remark  :  "  That  such  a  censure  is  novel  and  unex- 
pected, and  that  this  shepherd  and  his  flock  ought  not  to 
be  deprived  from  hearing  the  Word  of  God  and  receiving 
the  bread  of  life."  "  By  no  means,  I  would  have  him 
himself  preach  that  word  as  well  as  administer  that 
bread  morning  and  evening,  in  the  churches,  in  the 
houses,  on  the  market-places,  from  the  housetops,  and 
have  none  assume  such  a  grand  and  laborious  office  but 
with  intentions,  capacities,  and  physical  strength  deserv- 
ing of  the  handsome  offerings  and  wealthy  emoluments 
belonging  to  it.  However,  I  am  compelled  to  excuse 
the  vicar's  conduct,  for  it  is  customary,  and  he  found  it 
already  established  and  will  transmit  it  to  his  successors  ; 
but  still  I  must  blame  this  strange,  unreasonable,  and 
unwarrantable  custom,  whilst  I  approve  still  less  the 
habit  of  his  being  paid  four  times  for  the  same  funeral, 
once  for  himself,  a  second  time  as  his  fees,  a  third  for 
his  being  present,  and  a  fourth  for  his  officiating." 

(25,)  Titus  served  the  church  these  twenty  years  in 
a  small  living,  and  is  not  yet  held  worthy  of  a  better 
which  becomes  vacant ;  neither  his  talents,  knowledge, 
his  exemplary  life,  nor  the  wishes  of  his  parishioners 
are  sufficient  to  get  him  promoted  •  another  clergyman 


originals  of  La  Bruyere's  portrait,  but  our  author  was  far  more  general  in 
his  application. 
1  Les /ourrures  in  the  original.     See  page  318,  note  2. 


OF   CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  413 

Starts  up,  as  it  were,  from  underground,  and  he  obtains 
the  preference ;  Titus  is  sent  back  and  put  off,  but  he 
does  not  complain,  for  custom  will  have  it  so. 

(26.)  "Who,"  asks  the  precentor,  *' will  compel  me 
to  come  to  matins  ?  Am  I  not  master  of  the  choir  ? 
My  predecessor  never  went  there,  and  I  am  as  good 
a  man  as  ever  he  was  !  Shall  I  allow  my  dignity  to 
be  debased  while  I  hold  office,  or  leave  it  to  my  suc- 
cessor as  I  found  it  ?  "  The  head  of  the  school  says  : 
"  I  do  not  battle  for  my  own  interests,  but  for  those  of 
the  prebend  ;  it  would  be  hard  indeed  for  a  superior 
canon  to  have  to  do  duty  with  the  choir,  whilst  the 
treasurer,  the  archdeacon,  the  penitentiary,  and  the 
grand  vicar  think  themselves  exempt  from  it,"  "  It 
is  my  right,"  argues  the  head  of  the  chapter,  "  to 
claim  my  dues,  even  if  I  should  never  come  to 
prayers ;  for  twenty  years  I  slept  every  night  with- 
out being  disturbed ;  I  will  go  on  as  I  began,  and 
never  act  derogatory  to  my  dignity.  Else,  why  should 
I  be  head  of  the  chapter,  if  my  example  should  be 
of  no  importance  ?  "  Thus  each  strives  not  to  praise 
the  Lord,  and  to  show  that,  for  a  long  time,  it  was 
neither  customary  nor  compulsory  to  do  so ;  whilst  the 
emulation  not  to  repair  to  divine  service  cannot  be 
greater  nor  more  fervent.  The  bells  toll  in  the  stillness 
of  the  night,  and  the  same  sounds  which  awaken  the 
choristers  and  the  singing-boys,  lull  the  canons  into 
a  more  sound  and  pleasant  slumber,  interspersed  by 
delicious  dreams  ;  they  rise  late,  and  go  to  church  to 
be  paid  for  having  slept. 

(27.)  Who  would  ever  imagine,  did  not  experience 
daily  show  it,  how  difficult  it  is  for  people  to  resign 
themselves  to  their  being  happy  ;  and  that  there  should 


414  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

be  need  of  men  dressed  in  a  certain  fashion,  who  by- 
tender  and  pathetic  speeches  prepared  beforehand,  by 
certain  inflexions  of  the  voice,  by  tears  and  gestures, 
which  make  them  perspire  and  exhaust  them,  finally 
induce  a  Christian  and  sensible  man,  who  is  desperately 
ill,  not  to  be  lost  for  ever  but  to  ensure  his  own  salva- 
tion. 

(28.)  Aristippus'  daughter  lies  dangerously  ill ;  she 
sends  for  her  father,  and  is  anxious  to  be  reconciled  to 
him  and  die  happy.  Shall  so  wise  a  man,  the  oracle 
of  the  whole  town,  take  such  a  sensible  step  of  his  own 
accord,  and  persuade  his  wife  to  do  the  same  ?  No  ! 
they  will  not  stir  without  the  interference  of  a  spiritual 
director. 

(29.)  If  a  mother  does  not  yield  to  the  inclinations 
of  her  daughter,  but  induces  her  to  become  a  nun,  she 
takes  upon  herself  the  charge  of  another  soul  beside  her 
own,  and  is  responsible  for  such  a  soul  to  God.  Such 
a  mother  will  be  lost  for  ever  if  the  daughter  be  not 
saved. 

(30.)  A  certain  man  gambles  and  is  ruined,  but 
nevertheless,  when  the  eldest  of  his  two  daughters  gets 
married,  he  gives  her  as  a  dowry  all  he  has  been  able 
to  rescue  out  of  the  clutches  of  some  cheat ;  ^  the 
younger  will  shortly  become  a  nun,  without  any  vocation 
for  it,  but  compelled  by  the  losses  of  her  father  at 
play. 

(31.)  Certain  maidens,  virtuous,  healthy,  enthusiasts 
in  religion,  and  who  feel  they  have  a  call,  have  not 
sufficient  money  to  enter  a  wealthy  nunnery  and  to  take 
the  vows  of  poverty. 

1  The  origfinal  has  the  proper  name  Ambreville,  a  noted  rogn-  and  head 
of  a  band  of  robbers,  who  was  publicly  burned  at  the  stake  in  1686. 


OF   CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  415 

(32.)  A  woman  who  hesitates  whether  she  shall  enter 
an  abbey  or  a  nunnery  revives  the  old  question  about 
the  advantages  of  a  popular  or  a  despotic  rule.^ 

(33.)  To  play  the  fool  and  marry  for  love  is  to  marry 
Melita,  a  handsome,  sensible,  thrifty,  charming  young 
woman  who  loves  you,  but  is  not  so  wealthy  as  ^gina, 
whose  hand  is  proposed  to  you,  with  a  large  dowry,  but 
who  feels  a  strong  inclination  for  spending  it  all,  and 
your  own  fortune  as  well. 

(34.)  Formerly  it  was  considered  no  trifling  affair  to 
get  married  ;  it  was  a  settlement  for  life,  a  matter  of 
importance  which  deserved  a  great  deal  of  consideration  ; 
for  a  man  had  to  take  a  wife  for  all  his  life,  for  better 
or  worse  ;  the  same  table  and  the  same  bed  served 
them  both  ;  there  was  no  getting  rid  of  one  another  by 
separate  maintenance,  and  a  man  with  a  household  and 
children  did  not  seem  a  rollicking  bachelor. 

(35.)  I  commend  the  bashfulness  of  a  man  who 
avoids  being  seen  with  a  woman  not  his  wife, 
and  I  can  also  understand  his  being  loth  to  frequent 
persons  of  bad  reputation.  But  what  an  impertinence 
for  a  man  to  blush  being  in  the  company  of  his  own 
wife  and  being  ashamed  of  appearing  in  public  with 
a  lady  whom  he  has  chosen  as  his  companion  for  life, 
who  should  be  his  joy,  his  comfort,  and  his  chief  society; 
whom  he  loves  and  esteems,  who  adorns  his  home, 
and  whose  intelligence,  merits,  virtue,  and  connections 
reflect  credit  on  him.  Why  did  he  not  begin  being 
ashamed  of  his  marriage  .'' 

I  am  well  aware  of  the  tyranny  of  custom,  how  it 

1  The  lady  superior  of  an  abbey  was  appointed  by  the  king,  but  in  a 
nunnery  she  was  elected  by  the  entire  sisterhood ;  hence  our  author's  re- 
marks about  "  a  popular  or  a  despotic  rule." 


4l6  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

sways  the  mind  and  constrains  the  manners  of  men, 
even  in  things  which  are  most  senseless  and  needless  ; 
but  I  feel,  nevertheless,  I  could  be  bold  enough  to  walk 
on  the  Cours  to  be  stared  at  in  the  company  of  the 
lady  who  is  my  wife.^ 

(36.)  It  is  not  a  fault  in  a  young  man  to  marry  a 
lady  advanced  in  age,  nor  should  he  be  ashamed  of  it, 
for  he  not  seldom  shows  his  prudence  and  foresight  by 
acting  thus.  But  it  is  infamous  to  treat  his  benefactress 
disgracefully,  and  to  let  her  see  she  has  been  imposed 
upon  by  a  hypocrite  and  an  ungrateful  fellow.  If  dis- 
sembling be  ever  excusable  it  is  when  it  is  done  out 
of  kindness  ;  if  deception  is  ever  to  be  allowed,  it  is  when 
sincerity  would  be  cruelty.  No  man  should  behave 
cruelly  even  if  his  wife  should  live  longer  than  he 
expected  ;  for  he  did  not  stipulate,  when  he  married  her, 
that  she  should  give  up  the  ghost  immediately  after 
having  made  his  fortune  and  paid  his  debts.  Has  she 
no  longer  to  draw  breath,  and  has  she  to  take  a  dose  of 
opium  or  hemlock  after  having  performed  such  a  fine 
stroke  of  business  ?  Is  it  a  crime  in  her  to  live  ?  And 
is  she  to  be  blamed  if  the  man  should  die  before  the 
woman,  for  whose  funeral  he  had  already  made  such  nice 
arrangements,  and  for  whom  he  intended  to  have  the 
biggest  bells  tolled  and  the  finest  trappings  brought  out  ? 

(37-)  For  some  time  a  certain  method  has  been  in 
use  for  making  the  most  of  one's  money,^  which  is  still 

1  When  our  author  wrote,  it  was  the  fashion  among  the  upper  classes 
for  a  man  never  to  be  seen  in  public  with  his  wife.  Some  years  later  people 
began  even  to  be  ashamed  of  being  married,  and  if  comedies  hold  the 
mirror  up  to  nature,  this  may  be  observed  m  Le  Philosophe  ntarii  (i.-j'zt),  by 
N.  Destouches,  and  in  Le  Prejuge  d  ia  Mode  (1735),  by  La  Chaussee.  For 
the  Cours,  see  page  164,  note  2. 

*  The  author  states  in  a  note  that  by  "  making  the  most  of  one's  money  " 
he  means  "lending  it  out  on  bills  and  notes  of  hand,"  for  which,  according 


OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  417 

practised  by  some  of  our  gentlemanly  people,  though  it 
has  been  condemned  by  our  most  eminent  divines. 

(38.)  In  every  commonwealth  there  are  always  some 
offices  apparently  created  for  no  other  purpose  but  to 
enrich  one  man  at  the  expense  of  many ;  the  property 
and  the  monies  of  private  people  flow  continually  and 
uninterruptedly  in  his  coffers,^  and  they  hardly  ever  come 
back,  or  if  they  do,  it  is  after  a  long  while.  Each  of  these 
chests  is  like  an  abyss,  a  sea,  which  receives  the  waters 
of  many  rivers  but  disgorges  none ;  or,  if  it  does,  it  is 
imperceptibly,  through  secret  and  subterranean  channels, 
without  in  the  least  abating  its  size  and  volume,  and  not 
till  it  has  enjoyed  these  waters  for  a  good  while  and 
can  keep  them  no  longer. 

(38.)  To  sink  money  in  an  annuity  was  formerly 
considered  quite  safe  ;  it  was  sure  to  be  paid,  and  in- 
alienable, but,  now,  through  the  fault  of  administrators, 
it  may  be  considered  irretrievably  lost.^  What  other 
means  are  there  for  doubling  an  income  or  for  hoarding  ? 
Shall  I  trust  my  money  to  the  farmers  of  the  huitieine 
dentgr,  or  to   those  of  the   indirect   taxes  ?  ^      Shall   I 

to  the  old  French  legislation  and  the  old  canonical  law  no  interest  could  be 
charged,  though  some  divines  allowed  trading  companies  to  pay  interest  on 
borrowed  monies. 

1  Several  remarks  had  been  made  on  this  part  of  the  above  paragraph 
whilst  La  Bruyere  was  still  alive,  and  a  note  of  the  ninth  edition  of  the 
"  Characters  "  (1696),  published  one  month  after  the  author's  death,  ex- 
plained that  it  only  referred  to  monies  deposited  in  the^,e^  or  clerk's  office 
of  certain  tribunals  whilst  a  lawsuit  was  going  on. 

2  An  allusion  to  the  bankruptcy  of  some  hospitals  in  Paris,  which 
ruined  many  persons  who  had  advanced  money  on  annuities.  This 
bankruptcy  took  place  in  the  year  1689,  and  the  fourth  edition  of  the 
"  Characters,"  in  which  the  above  paragraph  first  appeared,  was  pub- 
lished the  same  year.  The  original  has  also  a  play  on  words,  on  le/onds 
perdu,  to  sink  money  in  an  annuity,  and  un  bien  perdu,  money  irretrie- 
vably lost. 

*  For  the  huitiime  denier,  see  page  138,  note  i.     The  aides  were  indirect 

2   D 


4l8  OF   CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

become  a  miser,  a  farmer  of  the  revenue,^  or  an  adminis- 
trator of  a  hospital  ? 

(40.)  You  have  a  silver  coin,  or  even  a  gold  coin  in 
your  possession,  but  that  is  not  enough,  for  such  coins 
only  exercise  their  influence  in  large  quantities  ;  collect, 
if  you  can,  a  goodly  number  of  them,  make  a  heap  of 
them,  and  then  leave  the  rest  to  me.  You  are  neither 
well-born,  intelligent,  talented,  nor  experienced,  but  what 
does  it  matter  ?  only  keep  up  your  heap  and  I  will 
take  care  to  place  you  in  such  an  eminent  position  that 
you  shall  stand  covered  before  your  master,  if  you  have 
one  ;  and  he  must  be  a  very  great  man  indeed,  if,  with 
the  help  of  your  daily  increasing  coin,  I  do  not  make 
him  stand  bareheaded  in  your  presence. 

(41.)  Oranta  has  been  at  law  these  ten  years  to  know 
in  what  court  her  cause  is  to  be  tried  •  her  pretensions 
are  well  founded,  of  great  importance,  and  her  whole 
fortune  is  at  stake.  Perhaps  about  five  years  hence  she 
may  know  who  her  judges  are  to  be,  and  in  what  court 
she  is  to  plead  for  the  remaining  years  of  her  life. 

(42.)  The  custom  which  has,  of  late,  been  adopted 
by  our  courts  of  judicature,  of  interrupting  barristers 
whilst  speaking,  of  preventing  them  from  being  eloquent 
and  witty,  of  making  them  go  back  to  the  mere  facts  of  a 
case,  and  to  the  bare  proofs  on  which  their  clients  base 
their  rights,  is  very  much  approved  of.^  This  harsh 
measure,  which  makes  orators  regret  they  have  to  leave 
out  the  finest  parts  of  their  speeches,  banishes  eloquence 

taxes  which  the  clergy  and  the  nobility  had  to  pay  as  well  as  the  common 
people. 

1  The  original  has  /artisans.     See  page  136,  note  2. 

2  The  President  Potier  de  Novion  (see  page  333,  note  2)  was  the  first,  it 
is  said,  to  adopt  this  custom,  but  a  few  months  before  this  paragraph  was 
published  (1689),  he  had  to  resign  his  post  on  account  of  malversation  and 
abuse  of  authority. 


OF   CERTAIN   CUSTOMS.  419 

from  the  only  spot  where  it  is  not  out  of  place,  and 
will  make  of  our  Parliaments  ^  mute  judicial  tribunals,  is 
founded  on  this  sound  and  unanswerable  argument,  that  it 
expedites  the  dispatch  of  business.  I  also  wish  the  clerks 
would  not  forget  to  accelerate  their  business  in  the  same 
way  it  is  now  done  in  court,  and  that  not  only  barristers' 
speeches  but  the  reports  in  writing  might  be  curtailed. 2 

(43.)  It  is  the  duty  of  a  judge  to  administer  justice, 
but  it  is  his  profession  to  delay  it ;  some  judges  know 
their  duty  and  practise  their  profession. 

(44.)  Whenever  a  judge  is  solicited^  it  reflects  no 
credit  on  him,  for  either  his  knowledge  or  his  honesty 
is  considered  doubtful,  and  an  attempt  is  made  to 
prejudice  him  or  to  get  him  to  commit  an  injustice. 

(45.)  With  certain  judges  court  favour,  authority, 
friendship,  and  family  connections,  damage  a  good  cause, 
and  an  affectation  of  wishing  to  appear  incorruptible 
induces  them  to  become  unjust. 

(46.)  A  magistrate  who  is  either  a  dandy  or  a  gal- 
lant has  a  far  worse  influence  than  if  he  were  a  dis- 
solute man,  for  the  latter  conceals  his  behaviour  and 
intrigues,  so  that  often  it  is  not  known  how  to  approach 
him,  whilst  the  former  with  many  professed  foibles  may 
be  influenced  by  every  woman  he  wishes  to  please. 

(47.)  Religion  and  justice  are  almost  alike  respected 
in  a  commonwealth,  and  the  character  of  a  magistrate 
is  considered  nearly  as  sacred  as  that  of  a  priest.  A 
legal  dignitary  can  hardly  dance  at  a  ball,  be  seen  in  a 
theatre,  or  doff  his  plain  and  modest  apparel,  without 
bringing  contempt  upon  himself ;  it  is  strange  a  law 
should  be  necessary  to  regulate  his  outward  appearance, 

1  See  page  155,  note  3.  '  See  page  181,  note  i. 

'  See  page  72,  note  2. 


420  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

and    compel   him  to   assume    a  grave  and  highly  re- 
spectable air.i 

(48.)  There  exists  no  profession  in  which  an  appren- 
ticeship is  not  necessary  ;  and  in  considering  the  various 
stations  of  men,  it  is  manifest  that,  from  the  highest  to 
the  lowest,  some  time  has  been  allowed  to  every  person 
for  qualifying  himself  by  practice  and  experience  for  his 
profession,  when  his  errors  have  been  of  no  importance, 
but,  on  the  contrary,  led  to  perfection.  War  itself, 
which  seems  to  owe  its  origin  to  confusion  and  disorder, 
and  to  be  fostered  by  them,  has  its  own  rules  ;  people 
do  not  destroy  one  another  in  the  open  field,  in  platoons, 
and  in  bands,  without  having  been  taught  it,  for  killing 
is  practised  methodically.  There  is  a  school  for  mili- 
tary men  ;  then  why  should  magistrates  not  have  one  ? 
There  are  established  practices,  laws,  and  customs,  but 
no  time  is  allowed,  or  at  least  not  sufficient  time,  for 
digesting  and  studying  them.  The  first  attempt  and 
apprenticeship  of  a  youth  who,  fresh  from  school,  dons 
red  garments,  and  has  been  made  a  judge  on  account 
of  his  money,2  is  to  decide  arbitrarily  of  the  lives  and 
fortunes  of  men. ^ 

(49.)  The  chief  qualification  of  an  orator  is  probity  ; 
without  it  he  is  no  more  than  a  declaimer,  and  disguises 
or  exaggerates  matters  of  fact,  makes  use  of  falsified 
quotations,  slanders,  adopts  all  the  injustice  and  malice 

1  Counsellors  of  parliament  (see  page  181,  note  i)  were  obliged  to  wear 
bands,  by  an  order  of  Council  obtained  at  the  request  of  M.  de  Harlay 
(see  page  45,  note  i);  before  that  time  they  wore  cravats  like  other  gentle- 
men.    See  also  page  65,  note  2. 

2  The  counsellors  of  parliament  wore  red  gowns,  the  magistrates  red  fur- 
lined  cloaks.  See  page  318,  note  2.  The  original  of  "on  account  of 
his  money  "  is  consi^uition.     See  page  169,  note  2. 

3  In  most  of  the  courts  of  France  the  places  of  magistrates  were  bought 
and  sold.     See  also  the  chapter  "  Of  the  Town,"  page  167,  §  5. 


OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  42 1 

of  his  client,  and  may  be  ranked  among  those  advocates 
of  whom  the  proverb  says,  "  that  they  are  hired  to  insult 
people."  1 

(50.)  I  have  heard  it  said :  "It  is  true  I  owe  a 
certain  sum  to  such  and  such  a  person,  and  his  claim 
is  indisputable  ;  but  I  wait  to  see  if  he  will  execute  a 
small  matter  of  form,  and  if  he  omits  it,  he  can  never 
retrieve  his  error  ;  consequently  he  will  then  lose  his 
debt,  and  his  claim  will  be  undoubtedly  superseded. 
Now,  he  is  pretty  sure  to  forget  it ! "  The  man  who 
utters  such  words  has  a  real  pettifogger's  conscience. 

An  excellent,  useful,  sensible,  wise,  and  just  maxim 
for  all  courts  of  judicature  would  be  the  reverse  of  that 
which  prefers  form  to  equity. 

(5  I.)  Torture  is  an  admirable  invention,  and  infallibly 
destroys  an  innocent  man  who  has  a  weak  constitution, 
whilst  it  saves  a  guilty  man  who  is  hardy. 2 

(52.)  The  punishment  of  a  villain  is  an  example  for 
his  fellows  ;  in  the  condemnation  of  an  innocent  man 
all  honest  men  are  concerned.^ 

Speaking  of  myself,  I  would  almost  affirm  never  to 
become  a  thief  or  murderer,  but  I  would  not  be  so  bold 
as  to  infer  that  I  might  never  be  punished  as  such. 

Deplorable    is    the   condition  of  an  innocent  person 

1  Marcus  Valerius  Martialis  (43,  was  living  104)  says."  "Iras  et  verba 
locant." 

2  Montaigne,  Montesquieu,  and  many  other  eminent  Frenchmen  attacked 
the  legal  employment  of  torture,  but  it  was  continued  in  France  till  1788. 

3  Our  author  uses  by  exception  honnetes  gens  for  honest  men.  A  certain 
Marquis  de  Langlade  was  put  on  the  rack  (1688),  and  after  having  been 
innocently  sentenced  to  the  galleys  on  a  false  accusation  of  having  robbed 
the  Duke  de  Montmorency,  died  there  in  1689  ;  and  a  servant,  Le  Brun, 
accused  of  the  murder  of  Madame  Mazel,  died  after  having  been  cruelly 
tortured  (1690).  The  real  criminals  were  discovered  some  time  afterwards, 
and  this  produced  a  great  sensation  at  the  time  La  Bruyere  wrote  (1691). 


42  2  OF    CERTAIN    CUSTOMS. 

whose  trial  has  been  hurried,  and  who  is  found  guilty. 
Can  even  that  of  his  judge  be  more  lamentable  .'' 

(53.)  If  I  had  been  told  that  in  former  ages  a  privot^ 
or  one  of  those  magistrates  appointed  for  the  appre- 
hension and  destruction  of  rogues  and  thieves,  had  been 
long  acquainted  with  all  such  rascals,  knew  their 
names  and  faces  as  well  as  the  number  and  quantity 
of  their  robberies,  and  all  particulars  about  them ;  and 
had  so  far  penetrated  all  their  actions  and  was  so  com- 
pletely initiated  in  all  their  horrible  mysteries  that,  to 
prevent  the  clamour  some  great  man  was  about  to  raise 
for  the  loss  of  a  jewel,  stolen  from  him  in  a  crowd 
when  coming  from  some  party,  he  knew  how  to  restore 
it  to  him,  and  that  Parliament  interfered  and  had  this 
magistrate  tried ;  I  should  class  such  an  event  with 
many  others  in  history,  which  in  the  course  of  time 
have  become  incredible.  How,  then,  can  I  believe, 
what  may  be  inferred  from  recent,  well-known,  and 
clearly  proved  facts,  that  such  a  pernicious  connivance 
exists  even  at  the  present  time,  is  made  a  jest  of,  and 
is  looked  upon  as  a  matter  of  course  ?  ^ 

(54.)  There  exists  a  large  number  of  men,  imperious 
towards  the  weak,  firm  and  inflexible  when  solicited  by 
commoners,  without  any  regard  for  the  inferior  classes, 
rigid  and  severe  in  trifles,  who  will  not  accept  the 
smallest  present,  nor  be  persuaded  by  their  dearest 
friends  and  nearest  relatives,  and  who  only  are  to  be 
bribed  by  women. 2 


1  It  has  been  said  that  the  wife  of  M.  de  Saint-Pouange  (see  page  134,  note 
3)  was  robbed  of  a  diamond  buckle  when  leaving  the  opera,  but  that  it  was 
returned  to  her  by  M.  de  Grandmaison,  ^and  prevdt  de  la  connHablie. 

2  The  "Keys"  mention  as  one  of  these  men  the  President  de  Mesmes. 
See  page  168,  note  3. 


OF   CERTAIN   CUSTOMS.  423 

(55.)  It  is  not  absolutely  impossible  for  a  man  who 
is  in  high  favour  to  lose  his  suit. 

(56,)  A  person  who  is  dying  may  expect  his  last 
will  to  be  listened  to  as  if  it  was  an  oracle ;  every  man 
puts  his  own  construction  on  it  and  explains  it  as  he 
pleases,  or  rather,  as  it  will  suit  his  inclination  or  his 
interest, 

(57.)  There  are  some  men  of  whom  we  may  truly 
say  that  death  does  not  so  much  determine  their  last 
will  as  that  it  deprives  them  of  life  as  well  as  of  their 
irresolution  and  restlessness  :  a  fit  of  anger  moves  them 
to  make  a  will,  whilst  they  are  living,  but  when  the  fit 
is  over  it  is  torn  to  pieces  and  burnt.  They  have  as 
many  wills  in  their  strong  box  as  there  are  almanacs  on 
their  table,  for  every  year  is  sure  to  produce  a  new  one ; 
a  second  will  is  annulled  by  a  third,  which  is  rendered 
void  by  another  better  drawn  up,  again  invalidated  by 
a  fifth  and  holographic  will.  Yet  if  a  person  who  has 
an  interest  in  suppressing  this  last  will  has  neither  an 
opportunity,  nor  a  desire,  nor  the  means  of  doing  so, 
he  must  stand  by  its  clauses  and  conditions  ;  for  what 
can  more  clearly  prove  the  intentions  of  a  man,  how- 
ever changeable,  than  a  last  deed,  under  his  own  hand, 
made  so  lately  that  he  had  no  time  to  change  his 
mind  ? 

(58.)  If  there  were  no  wills  to  regulate  the  rights  of 
lawful  heirs,  I  question  whether  men  would  need  any 
tribunal  to  adjust  their  differences ;  the  functions  of 
a  judge  would  almost  be  reduced  to  the  sad  necessity 
of  sending  thieves    and   incendiaries  ^  to   the  gallows. 

1  During  the  latter  part  of  the  reign  of  Louis  XIV.,  fire-raising  was 
very  common  in  the  rural  districts  of  France,  and  it  was  one  of  the  means 
the  peasants  chose  for  revenging  themselves  on  their  masters  for  their  exac 
lions  and  for  fiscal  cruelties. 


424  OF   CERTAIN   CUSTOMS. 

Whom  do  you  see  in  the  galleries  ^  of  the  court,  in  the 
waiting-rooms,  at  the  doors  or  in  the  rooms  of  the 
magistrates  ?  Not  heirs-at-law,  for  their  rights  are 
immutable  ;  but  legatees,  going  to  law  about  the  mean- 
ing of  a  clause  or  an  article  ;  disinherited  persons  who 
find  fault  with  a  will  drawn  up  at  leisure  and  with 
circumspection  by  a  grave,  able,  and  conscientious 
man,  and  not  without  the  aid  of  a  good  lawyer ;  with 
a  deed  in  which  some  cunning  legal  practitioner  has 
not  omitted  an  iota  of  his  professional  cant  and  his 
ordinary  subtleties,  signed  by  the  testator  and  public 
witnesses,  duly  initialled,  and  which,  notwithstanding  all 
this,  is  set  aside  by  the  court  and  declared  null  and  void. 
(59.)  Titius  is  present  at  the  reading  of  a  will  ;  his 
eyes  are  red  with  weeping,  and  he  is  overcome  with 
grief  for  the  loss  of  a  friend  whose  heir  he  expects  to 
become.  One  clause  of  the  will  bequeaths  him  his 
friend's  official  position,  another  his  municipal  bonds,  by 
a  third  he  becomes  master  of  an  estate  in  the  country, 
and  a  fourth  gives  him  a  furnished  house  in  the  middle 
of  town,  with  all  its  appurtenances.  His  grief  increases, 
his  tears  flow  abundantly,  and  he  cannot  contain  him- 
self; he  already  beholds  himself  in  an  official  position, ^ 
with  a  town  and  country  house,  both  furnished  in  the 
same  style ;  he  intends  to  keep  a  good  table  and  a  car- 
riage. "  Was  there  ever  a  more  gentlemanly  or  a  better 
man  than  the  deceased?"  he  asks.  But  a  codicil  is 
joined  to  the  will  which  must  also  be  read,  by  which 
Maevius  is  appointed  sole  heir,  and  Titius  is  sent  back 
to  the  suburbs  to  trudge  without  money  or  titles.     Titius 

1  The  original  has  laniernes,  tribunes  in  Parliament  whence  people  could 
see  what  was  going  on  without  being  seen. 

2  //  se  voit  officier  in  the  original.     See  page  153,  note  3. 


OF   CERTAIN    CUSTOMS.  425 

wipes  away  his  tears,  and  it  is  now  Maevius'  duty  to 
grieve.^ 

(60.)  Does  not  the  law,  in  forbidding  to  kill,  include 
also  stabbing,  poisoning,  burning,  drowning,  lying  in 
ambush,  open  violence,  in  a  word,  and  all  means  tending 
to  homicide  ?  Does  the  law,  which  restrains  husbands 
and  wives  from  bequeathing  property  to  one  another, 
only  refer  to  direct  and  immediate  ways  of  giving  ?  2 
Has  it  made  no  provision  against  those  that  are  indirect? 
Was  it  the  cause  of  the  introduction  of  trustees,  and 
does  it  even  tolerate  them  ?  When  the  dearest  of  wives 
outlives  her  husband,  does  a  man  bequeath  his  estate 
to  a  trusty  friend  as  an  acknowledgment  of  his  friend- 
ship, or  is  it  not  rather  a  proof  of  his  complete  confidence 
and  reliance  on  that  friend  who  will  make  a  right  use 
of  what  has  been  intrusted  to  him  ?  Will  a  man  make 
over  his  estate  to  anyone  whom  he  even  suspects  of  not 
restoring  it  to  the  person  for  whom  it  is  really  intended  ? 
Is  any  speech  or  any  letter  needed,  and  is  a  contract 
or  an  oath  necessary  for  such  a  collusion  ?  Does  not 
every  man  on  such  an  occasion  feel  what  he  can  expect 
from  another  man  ?      If,  on  the  contrary,   the  property 

1  Titius  and  Seius  were  often  quoted  in  Roman  law,  as  "  A."  and  B."  are 
in  English  law,  in  stating  a  case  to  counsel.  Maevius  was  a  wretched  poet 
of  Virgil's  time,  and  seems  to  be  wrongly  named  by  La  Bruyere  in  apposi- 
tion to  Titius.  According  to  some  commentators,  the  mishap  attributed  to 
Titius  really  happened  to  a  M.  Hennequin,  procureur  ghUral  an  grand 
cotiseil. 

2  The  notary,  M.  de  Bonnefoi,  in  Moliere's  Malade  Imaginaire  (act  i. 
scene  9)  explains  to  the  hypochondriacal  Argan  :  "  You  cannot  give  any- 
thing to  your  wife  by  your  will.  .  .  .  Common  law  is  opposed  to  it  .  .  .  in 
Paris  and  in  all  countries  where  common  law  exists.  .  .  .  All  the  good 
which  man  and  woman  joined  in  wedlock  can  do  to  each  other,  is  a  mutual 
donation  while  living  ;  and  then  there  must  be  no  children. "  And  when  Argan 
asks  what  he  has  to  do  to  leave  his  wife  his  property,  the  honest  notary 
replies  :  "  You  can  quietly  choose  an  intimate  friend  of  your  wife's,  to  whom 
you  will  give,  in  due  form  by  your  will,  all  that  you  can  ;  and  this  friend 
shall  afterwards  give  it  all  back  to  her." 


426  OF   CERTAIN   CUSTOMS. 

of  such  an  estate  is  vested  in  a  trustee,  why  does  he 
lose  his  reputation  by  retaining  it  ?  What,  then,  is  the 
reason  of  all  these  satires  and  lampoons  ?  ^  Why  is 
he  compared  to  a  guardian  who  betrays  his  trust,  to 
a  servant  robbing  his  master  of  a  sum  of  money 
he  has  to  take  somewhere  ?  Such  a  comparison  is 
wrong.  Is  it  considered  infamous  not  to  perform  a 
piece  of  liberality,  and  for  a  man  to  keep  for  his  own 
use  what  is  his  own  ?  How  strangely  perplexed,  how 
terribly  burdened,  must  such  a  trustee  feel  !  If  a  man, 
out  of  respect  for  the  laws,  appropriates  to  himself